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THE PORTKAIT OF A LADY 



VOL. II. 



# 



THE PORTRAIT OF A UDT 



BY 



HENRY JAMES, Jr., 



*« 



AUTHOR OF "THE EUROPEANS," ETC., ETC 



IN THREE VOLUMES 
VOL. II 



'V 



Ifonbmt: 
MACMILLAN AND CO. 

1881. 



JAN T«2 



Y> 



The Right of Tianslation and Reproduction i» Reseiicil. 



as/. I ■ S6^ 



CL4T AND TAYLOR, PBIHTERS, 
BUNGAT, SUFFOLK. 



Il 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



I. 

* SoMB fortnight after this incident Madame Merle drove up in 
a hansom cab to the house in Winchester Square. As she 
descended from her vehicle she observed, suspended between 
the dining-room windows, a large, neat, wooden tablet, on whose 
fresh black ground were inscribed in white paint the words — 
" This noble freehold mansion to be sold ; " with the name of 
the agent to whom application should be made. ^^ They certainly 
lose no time," said the visitor, as, after sounding the big brass 
knocker, she waited to be admitted ; " it's a practical country ! " 
And within the house, as she ascended to the drawing-room, 
she perceived numerous signs of abdication ; pictures removed 
from the walls and placed upon sofas, windows undraped and 
floors laid bare. Mrs. Touchett presently received her, and 
intimated in a few words that condolences might be taken 
for granted. 

** I know what you are going to say — he was a very good 
man. But I know it better than any one, because I gave him 
more chance to show it. In that I think I was a good wife." 
Mrs. Touchett added that at the end her husband apparently 

VOL. u. B 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



recognised this fact. " He has treated me liberally," she said ; 
" I won't say more liberally than I expected, because I didn't 
expect. You know that as a general thing I don't expect. But 
he chose, I presume, to recognise the fact that though I lived 
much abroad, and mingled — you may say freely — in foreign life, 
I never exhibited the smallest preference for any one else." 

" For any one but yourself," Madame Merle mentally observed; 
but the reflection was perfectly inaudible. 

" I never sacrificed my husband to another," Mrs. Touchett 
continued, with her stout curtness. 

" Oh no," thought Madame Merle ; " you never did anything 
for another 1 " 

There was a certain cynicism in these mute comments which 
demands an explanation ; the more so as they are not in accord 
either with the view — somewhat superficial perhaps — that we 
have hitherto enjoyed of Madame Merle's character, or with the 
literal facts of Mrs. Touchett's history ; the more so, too, as 
Madame Merle had a well-founded conviction that her friend's 
last remark was not in the least to be construed as a side-thrust 
at herself. The truth is, that the moment she had crossed the 
threshold she received a subtle impression that Mr. Touchett's 
death had had consequences, and that these consequences had 
been profitable to a little circle of persons among whom she 
was not numbered. Of course it was an event which would 
naturally have consequences; her imagination had more than 
once rested upon this fact during her stay at Gardencourt. But 
it had been one thing to foresee it mentally, and it was another 
to behold it actually. The idea of a distribution of property — 
she would almost have said of spoils — just now pressed upon 
her senses and irritated her with a sense of exclusion. I am far 
from wishing to say that Madame Merle was one of the hungry 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



ones of the world ; but we have abeady perceived that she had 
desires which had never been satisfied. If she had been 
questioned, she would of course have admitted — with a most 
becoming smile — that she had not the faintest claim to a share 
in Mr. Touchett*s relics. ** There was never anything in the 
world between us," she would have said. "There was never 
that, poor man ! " — with a fillip of her thumb and her third 
finger. I hasten to add, moreover, that if her private attitude 
at the present moment was somewhat incongruously invidious, 
she was very careful not to betray herself. She had, after 
all, as much sympathy for Mrs. Touchett's gains as for her 
losses. 

" He has left me this house," the newly-made widow said ; 
"but of course I shall not live in it; I have a much better 
house in Florence. The will was opened only three days since, 
but I have already oflfered the house for sale. I have also a 
share in the bank ; but I don't yet understand whether I am 
obliged to leave it there. If not, I shall certainly take it out. 
Ealph, of course, has Gardencourt ; but I am not sure that he 
will have means to keep up the place. He is of course left very 
well oflf, but his father has given away an immense deal of 
money ; there are bequests to a string of third cousins in Ver- 
mont. Ealph, however, is very fond of Gardencourt, and would 
be quite capable of living there — in summer — with a maid-of- 
all-work and a gardener's boy. There is one remarkable clause 
in my husband's will," Mrs. Touchett added. " He has left my 
niece a fortune." 

" A fortune ! " Madame Merle repeated, softly. 

" Isabel steps into something like seventy thousand pounds." 

Madame Merle's hands were clasped in her lap ; at this she 
raised them, still clasped, and held them a moment against her 

B 2 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



bosom, -while her eyes, a little dilated, fixed themselves on those 
of her friend. " Ah," she cried, " the clever creature ! " 

Mrs. Touchett gave her a quick look. " What do you mean 
by that ? " 

For an instant Madame Merle's colour rose, and she dropped 
her eyea "It certainly is clever to achieve such results — 
without an effort ! " 

** There certainly was no effort ; don't call it an achievement." 

Madame Merle was rarely guilty of the awkwardness of 
retracting what she had said ; her wisdom was shown rather in 
maintaining it and placing it in a favourable light. " My dear 
friend, Isabel would certainly not have had seventy thousand 
pounds left her if she had not been the most charming girl in 
the world. Her charm includes great cleverness." 

" She never dreamed, I am sure, of my husband's doing any- 
thing for her; and I never dreamed of it either, for he never 
spoke to me of his intention," Mrs. Touchett said. " She had 
no claim upon him whatever ; it was no great recommendation 
to him that she was my niece. Whatever she achieved she 
achieved unconsciously." 

"Ah," rejoined Madame Merle, "those are the greatest 
strokes ! " 

Mrs. Touchett gave a shrug. " The girl is fortunate ; I don't 
deny that. But for the present she is simply stupefied." 

" Do you mean that she doesn't know what to do with the 
money % ** 

"That, I think, she has hardly considered. She doesn't 
know what to think about the matter at all. It has been as if 
a big gun were suddenly fired off behind her; she is feeling 
herself, to see if she be hurt. It is but three days since she 
received a visit from the principal executor, who came in person, 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



very gallantly, to notify her. He told me afterwards that when 
he had made his little speech she suddenly burst into tears. 
The money is to remain in the bank, and she is to draw the 
interest." 

Madame Merle shook her head, with a wise, and now quite 
benignant, smile. ** After she had done that two or three times 
she will get used to it." Then aft«r a silence — " What does 
your son think of it 1 " she abruptly asked. 

" He left England just before it came out — used up by his 
fatigue and anxiety, and hurrying off to the south. He is on 
his way to the Riviera, and I have not yet heard from him. But 
it is not likely he will ever object to anything done by his 
father." 

" Didn't you say his own share had been cut down ? " 

" Only at his wish. I know that he urged his father to do 
something for the people in America. He is not in the least 
addicted to looking after number one." 

" It depends upon whom he regards as number one ! " said 
Madame Merle. And she remained thoughtful a moment, with 
her eyes bent upon the floor. " Am I not to see your happy 
niece ? " she asked at last, looking up. 

" You may see her ; but yqu will not be struck with her 
being happy. She has looked as solemn, these three days, as a 
Cimabue Madonna ! " And Mrs. Touchett rang for a servant. 

Isabel came in shortly after the footman had been sent to call 
her ; and Madame Merle thought, as she appeared, that Mrs. 
Touchett's comparison had its force. The girl was pale and 
grave — an effect not mitigated by her deeper mourning ; but the 
smile of her brightest moments came into her face as she saw 
Madame Merle, who went forward, laid her hand on our heroine's 
shoulder, and after looking at her a moment, kissed her as if she 



6 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

were returning the kiss that she had received from Isabel at 
Gardencourt. This was the only allusion that Madame Merle, 
in her great good taste, made for the present to her young friend's 
inheritance. 

Mrs. Touchett did not remain in London until she had sold 
her house. After selecting from among its furniture those 
objects which she wished to transport to her Florentine residence, 
she left the rest of its contents to be disposed of by the 
auctioneer, and took her departure for the Continent. She was, 
of course, accompanied on this journey by her niece, who now 
had plenty of leisure to contemplate the windfall on which 
Madame Merle had covertly congratulated her. Isabel thought 
of it very often and looked at it in a dozen diflPerent lights ; but 
we shall not at present attempt to enter into her meditations or 
to explain why it was that some of them were of a rather 
pessimistic cast. The pessimism of this yoimg lady was tran- 
sient ; she ultimately made up her mind that to be rich was a 
virtue, because it was to be able to do, and to do was sweet. It 
was the contrary of weakness. To be weak was, for a young 
lady, rather graceful, but, after all, as Isabel said to herself, 
there was a larger grace than that. Just now, it was true, there 
was not much to do — once she had sent off a cheque to Lily and 
another to poor Edith; but she was thankful for the quiet 
months which her mourning robes and her aunt's fresh widow- 
hood compelled the two ladies to spend. The acquisition of 
power made her serious ; she scrutinised her power with a kind 
of tender ferocity, but she was not eager to exercise it. She 
began to do so indeed during a stay of some weeks which she 
presently made with her aunt in Paris, but in ways that will 
probably be thought rather vulgar. They were the ways that 
most naturially presented themselves in a city in which the shops 



^ 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



we the admiration of the world, especially under the guidance of 
Mrs. Touchett, who took a rigidly practical view of the trans- 
fonnation of her niece from a poor girl to a rich one. ** Now 
that you are a young woman of fortune you must know how to 
play the part — I mean to play it well," she said to Isabel, once 
for all ; and she added that the girUs first duty was to have 
everything handsome. " You don't know how to take care of 
your things, but you must learn," she went on ; this was Isabers 
second duty. Isabel submitted, but for the present her imagin- 
ation was not kindled ; she longed for opportunities, but these 
were not the opportunities she meant. 

Mrs. Touchett rarely changed her plans, and having intended 
before her husband's death to spend a part of the winter in Paris 
she saw no reason to deprive herself — still less to deprive her 
companion — of this advantage. Though they would live in great 
retirement, she might still present her niece, informally, to the 
little circle of her fellow-countrymen dwelling upon the skirts of 
the Champs Elysees. With many of these amiable colonists 
Mrs. Touchett was intimate; she shared their expatriation, 
their convictions, their pastimes, their ennui. Isabel saw them 
come with a good deal of assiduity to her aunt's hotel, and 
judged them with a trenchancy which is doubtless to be accounted 
for by the temporary exaltation of her sense of human duty. 
She made up her mind that their manner of life was superficial, 
and incurred some disfavour by expressing this view on bright 
Sunday afternoons, when the American absentees were engaged 
in calling upon each other. Though her listeners were the most 
good-natured people in the world, two or three of them thought 
her cleverness, which was generally admitted, only a dangerous 
variation of impertinence. 

" You all live here' this way, but what does it all lead to 1 " 



8 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

she was pleased to ask. " It doesn't seem to lead to anvthiigy 
and I should think you would get very tired of it" 

Mrs. Touchett thought the question worthy of Henrietta 
Stackpole. The two ladies had found Henrietta in Paris, and 
Isabel constantly saw her ; so that iMrs. Touchett had some 
reason for saying to herself that if her niece were not clevftr 
enough to originate almost anything, she might be suspected of 
having borrowed that style of remark from her journalistic friend. 
The first occasion on which Isabel had spoken was that of a visit 
paid by the two ladies to Mrs. Luce, an old friend of Mrs. 
Touchetfs, and the only person in Paris she now went to see. 
Mrs. Luce had been living in Paris since the days of Louis 
Philippe; she used to say jocosely that she was one of the 
generation of 1830 — a joke of which the point was not always 
taken. When it failed Mrs. Luce used always to explain — " Oh 
yes, I am one of the romantics ; " her French had never become 
very perfect. She was always at home on Sunday afternoons, 
and surrounded by sympathetic compatriots, usually the same. 
In fact she was at home at all times, and led in her well-cushioned 
little comer of the brilliant city as quiet and domestic a life as 
she might have led in her native Baltimore. The existence of 
Mr. Luce, her worthy husband, was somewhat more inscrutable. 
Superficially indeed, there was no mystery about it ; the mystery 
lay deeper, and resided in the wonder of his supporting existence 
at alL He was the most unoccupied man in Europe, for he not 
only had no duties, but he had no pleasures. Habits certainly 
he had, but they were few in number, and had been worn 
threadbare by forty years of use. Mr. Luce was a tall, lean, 
grizzled, well-brushed gentleman, who wore a gold eye-glass and 
carried his hat a little too much on the back of his head. He 
went every day to the American banker's, where there was a 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



post-office which was ahnost as sociable and colloquial an institu- 
tion as that of an American country town. He passed an hour 
(in fine weather) in a chair in the Champs Elys^es, and he dined 
uncommonly well at his own table, seated above a waxed floor, 
which it was Mrs. Luce^s happiness to believe had a finer polish 
than any other in Paris. Occasionally he dined with a friend 
or two at the Caf6 Anglais, where his talent for ordering a 
dinner was a source of felicity to his companions and an object 
of admiration even to the head-waiter of the establishment. 
These were his only known avocations, but they had beguiled 
his hours for upwards of half a century, and they doubtless 
justified his frequent declaration that there was no place like 
Paris. In no other place, on these terms, could Mr. Luce flatter 
himself that he was enjoying life. There was nothing like Paris, 
but it must be confessed that Mr. Luce thought less highly of 
the French capital than in earlier days. In the list of his occu- 
pations his political reveries should not be omitted, for they 
were doubtless the animating principle of many hours that 
superficially seemed vacant. Like many of his fellow colonists, 
Mr. Luce was a high— or rather a deep — conservative, and gave 
no countenance to the government recently established in France. 
He had no faith in its duration, and would assure you from year 
to year that its end was close at hand. " They want to be kept 
down, sir, to be kept down ; nothing but the strong hand — the 
iron heel — ^will do for them," he would frequently say of the 
French people ; and his ideal of a fine government was that of 
the lately-abolished Empire. "Paris is much less attractive 
than in the days of the Emperor ; he knew how to make a city 
pleasant,'* Mr. Luce had often remarked to Mrs. Touchett, who was 
quite of his own way of thinking, and wished to know what one 
had crossed that odious Atlantic for but to get away from republics. 



10 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



"Why, madam, sitting in the Champs Ely sees, opposite to 
the Palace of Industry, I have seen the court- carriages from the 
Tuileries pass up and down as many as seven times a day. I 
remember one occasion when they went as high as nine times. 
What do you see now ] It's no use talking, the style's all gone. 
!N"apoleon knew what the French people want, and there'll be a 
cloud over Paris till they get the Empire back again." 

Among Mrs. Luce's visitors on Sunday afternoons was a 
young man with whom Isabel had had a good deal of convers- 
ation, and whom she found fuU of valuable knowledge. Mr. 
Edward Rosier — l^ed Rosier, as he was called — was a native of 
"New York, and had been brought up in Paris, living there 
under the eye of his father, who, as it happened, had been an 
old and intimate friend of the late Mr. Archer. Edward Rosier 
remembered Isabel as a little girl ; it had been his father who 
came to the rescue of the little Archers at the inn at Keufchatel 
(he was travelling that way with the boy, and stopped at the 
hotel by chance), after their bonne had gone off with the Russian 
prince and when Mr. Archer's whereabouts remained for some 
days a mystery. Isabel remembered perfectly the neat little 
male child, whose hair smelt of a delicious cosmetic, and who 
had a bonne of his own, warranted to lose sight of him under no 
provocation. Isabel took a walk with the pair beside the lake, 
and thought little Edward as pretty as an angel — a comparison 
by no means conventional in her mind, for she had a very 
definite conception of a type of features which she supposed to 
be angelic, and which her new friend perfectly illustrated. A 
small pink face, surmounted by a blue velvet bonnet and set off 
by a stiff embroidered collar, became the countenance of her 
childish dreams ; and she firmly believed for some time after- 
wards that the heavenly hosts converged among themselves in 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 11 

I 

a queer little dialect of French-English, expressing the properest 
sentiments, as when Edward told her that he was " defended " 
by his Ixmne to go near the edge of the lake, and that one must 
always obey to one's bonne, Ned Hosier's English had im- 
proved ; at least it exhibited in a less degree the French 
variation. His father was dead and his bonne was dismissed, 
but the young man still conformed to the spirit of their teaching 
— ^he never went to the edge of the lake. There was still 
something agreeable to the nostril about him, and something 
not offensive to nobler organs. He was a very gentle and 
gracious youth, with what are called cultivated tastes — an 
acquaintance with old china^ with good wine, with the bindings 
of books, with the Almanack de Gotha, with the best shops, 
the best hotels, the hours of railway-trains. He could order a 
dinner almost as well as Mr. Luce, and it was probable that as 
his experience accumulated he would be a worthy successor to 
that gentleman, whose rather grim politics he also advocated, in 
a soft and innocent voice. He had some charming rooms in 
Paris, decorated with old Spanish altar-lace, the envy of his 
female Mends, who declared that his chimney-piece was better 
draped than many a duchess. He usually, however, spent a 
part of every winter at Pau, and had once passed a couple of 
months in the United States. 

He took a great interest in Isabel, and remembered perfectly 
the walk at N"eufch4tel, when she would persist in going so near 
the edge. He seemed to recognise this same tendency in the 
subversive inquiry that I quoted a moment ago, and set himself 
to answer our heroine's question with greater urbanity than it 
perhaps deserved. " What does it lead to. Miss Archer % Why 
Paris leads everywhere. You can't go anywhere unless you 
come here first. Every one that comes to Europe has got to 



12 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

pass through. You don't mean it in that sense so much 1 You 
mean what good it does you? Well, how can you penetrate 
futurity 1 How can you' tell what lies ahead 1 If it's a pleasant 
road I don't care where it leads. I like the road, Miss Archer ; 
I like the dear old asphalte. You can't get tired of it — you 
can't if you try. You think you would, but you wouldn't; 
there's always something new and fresh. Take the H6tel 
Drouot, now ; they sometimes have three and four sales a week. 
Where can you get such things as you can here ] In spite of 
all they say, I maintain they are cheaper too, if you know the 
right places. I know plenty of places, but I keep them to 
myself. I'll tell you, if you like, as a particular favour ; only 
you must not tell any one else. Don't you go anywhere with- 
out asking me first; I want you to promise me that. As a 
general thing avoid the Boulevards ; there is very little to be 
done on the Boulevards. Speaking conscientiously — sans blague 
— I don't believe- any one knows Paris better than I. You and 
Mrs. Touchett must come and breakfast with me some day, and 
I'll show you my things ; je ne vous dis que ga 1 There has 
been a great deal of talk about London of late ; it's the fashion 
to cry up London. But there is nothing in it — ^you can't do 
anything in London. No Louis Quinze — ^nothing of the First 
Empire ; nothing but their eternal Queen Anne. It's good for 
one's bed-room, Queen Anne — for one's washing-room ; but it 
isn't proper for a salaa. Do I spend my life at the auctioneer's 1 " 
Mr. Eosier pursued, in answer to another question of Isabel's. 
" Oh, no ; I haven't the means. I wish I had. You think I'm 
a mere trifler; I can tell by the expression of your face — you 
have »got a wonderfully expressive face. I hope you don't mind 
my saying that ; I mean it as a kind of warning. You think I 
ought to do something, and so do I, so long as you leave it 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 13 

vague. But when you come to the point, you see you have to 
stop. I can't go home and be a shopkeeper. You think I am 
very well fitted? Ah, Miss Archer, you overrate me. I can 
buy very well, but I can't sell ; you should see when I some- 
times try to get rid of my things. It takes much more ability 
to make other people buy than to buy yourself. When I think 
how clever they must be, the people who make me buy I Ah, 
no; I couldn't be a shopkeeper. I can't be a doctor, it's a 
repulsive business. I can't be a clergyman, I haven't got con- 
victions. And then I can't pronounce the names right in the 
Bible. They are very difficult, in the Old Testament particularly. 
I can't be a lawyer ; I don't understand — how do you call it 1 — 
— the American procedure. Is there anything else? There 
is nothing for a gentleman to do in America. I should like 
to be a diplomatist; but American diplomacy — that is not 

for gentlemen either. I am sure if you had seen the last 

* ft 

mm 

Henrietta Stackpole, who was often with her friend when Mr. 
Hosier, coming to pay his compliments, late in the afternoon, 
expressed himself after the fashion I have sketched, usually 
interrupted the young man at this point and read him a lecture 
on the duties of the American citizen. She thought him most 
unnatural ; he was worse than Mr. Ealph Touchett. Henrietta, 
however, was at this time more than ever addicted to fine 
criticism, for her conscience had been freshly alarmed as regards 
Isabel. She had not congratulated this young lady on her 
accession of fortune, and begged to be excused from doing so. 

" If Mr. Touchett had consulted me about leaving you the 
money," she frankly said, "I would have said to him, * Never ! ' " 

" I see," Isabel had answered. " You think it will prove a 
curse in disguise. Perhaps it will." 



14 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Leave it to some one you care less for — ^that's what I should 
have said." 

"To yourself, for instance T' Isabel suggested, jocosely. And 
then — " Do you really believe it will /uin me 1 " she asked, in 
quite another tone. 

" I hope it won't ruin you ; but it will certainly confirm your 
dangerous tendencies.'* 

" Do you mean the love of luxury — of extravagance ] " 

" "No, no," said Henrietta ; " I mean your moral tendencies. 
I approve of luxury; I think we ought to be as elegant as 
possible. Look at the luxury of our western cities ; I have 
seen nothing over here to compare with it. I hope you will 
never become sensual ; but I am not afraid of that. The peril 
for you is that you live too much in the world of your own 
dreams — ^you are not enough in contact with reality — with the 
toiling, striving, suffering, I may even say sinning, worid that 
surrounds you. You are too fastidious; you have too many 
graceful illusions. Your newly-acquired thousands will shut 
you up more and more to the society of a few selfish and heart- 
less people, who will be interested in keeping up those illusions." 

Isabel's eyes expanded as she gazed upon this vivid but dusky 
picture of her future. "What are my illusions 1 " she asked. 
" I try so hard not to have any." 

"Well," said Henrietta, "you think that you can lead a 
romantic life, that you can live by pleasing yourself and pleasing 
others. You will find you are mistaken. Whatever life you 
lead, you must put your soul into it — to make any sort of success 
of it ; and from the moment you do that it ceases to be romance, 
I assure you ; it becomes reality I And you can't always please 
yourself; you must sometimes please other people. That, I 
admit, you are very ready to do; but there is another thing 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 15 

that is still more important — you must often disigleasQ others. 
You must always be ready for that — you must never shrink 
from it. That doesn't suit you at all — you are too fond of 
admiration, you like to be thought well of. You think we can 
escape disagreeable duties by taking romantic views — that is 
your great illusion, my dear. But we can't You must be 
prepared on many occasions in Hfe to please no one at all — not 
even yoursel£" 

Isabel shook her head sadly; she looked troubled and 
fiightened. "This, for^you, Henrietta," she said, "must be 
one of those occasions I " 

It was certainly true that Miss Stackpole, during her visit to 
Paris, which had been professionally more remunerative than 
her English sojourn, had not been living in the world of 
dreams. Mr. Bantling, who had now returned to England, was 
her companion for the first four weeks of her stay ; and about 
Mr. Bantling there was nothing dreamy. Isabel learned from 
her friend that the two had led a life of great intimacy, and 
that this had been a peculiar advantage to Henrietta, owing 
to the gentleman's. remarkable knowledge of Pans. He had 
explained everything, shown her everything, been her constant 
guide and interpreter. They had breakfasted together, dined 
together, gone to the theatre together, supped together, really in 
a manner quite lived together. He was a true friend, Henrietta 
more than once assured our heroine ; and she had never 
supposed that she could like any Englishman so welL Isabel 
could not have told you why, but she found something that 
ministered to mirth in the alliance the correspondent of the 
Interviewer had struck with Lady Pensil's brother; and her 
amusement subsisted in the face of the fact that she thought 
it a credit to each of them. Isabel could not rid herself of a 



16 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

soBpicion that they were playing, somehow, at cioss-piirposes — 
that the simplicity of each of them had been entrapped. Bat 
this simplicity was none the less honooiable on either side ; it 
was as graceful on Henrietta's part to believe that Mr. Bantling 
took an interest in the diffusion of lively journalism, and in 
consolidating the position of lady-correspondents, as it was on 
the part of her companion to suppose that the cause of the 
Interviewer — a periodical of which he never formed a very 
definite conception — was, if subtly analysed (a task to which 
Mr. Bantling felt himself quite equal), but the cause of Miss 
Stackpole's coquetry. Each of these hariplftftft confederates 
supplied at any rate a want of which the other was somewhat 
eagerly conscious. Mr. Bantling, who was of a rather slow and 
discursive habit, relished a prompt, keen, positive woman, who 
charmed him with the spectacle of a brilliant eye and a kind of 
bandbox neatness, and who kindled a perception of raciness in a 
mind to which the usual fare of life seemed unsalted. Henrietta, 
on the other hand, enjoyed the society of a fresh-looking, 
professionless gentleman, whose leisured state, though generally 
indefensible, was a decided advantage to Miss Stackpole, and 
who was furnished with an easy, traditional, though by no 
means exhaustive, answer to almost any social or practical 
question that could come up. She often found Mr. Bantling's 
answers very convenient, and in the press of catching the 
American post would make use of them in her correspondence. 
It was to be feared that she was indeed drifting toward those 
mysterious shallows as to which Isabel, wishing for a good- 
humoured retort, had warned her. There might be danger in 
store for Isabel; but it was scarcely to be hoped that Miss 
Stackpole, on her side, would find permanent safety in the 
adoption of second-hand views. Isabel continued to warn her, 



\ 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 17 

good-humouredly ; Lady PensiFs obliging brother was some- 
times, on our heroine's lips, an object of irreverent and facetious 
allusion. I^othing, however, could exceed Henrietta's amiability 
on this point ; she used to abound in the sense of Isabel's irony, 
and to enumerate with elation the hours she had spent with 
the good Mr. Bantling. Then, a few moments later, she would 
forget that they had been talking jocosely, and would mention 
with impulsive earnestness some expedition she had made in the 
company of the gallant ex-guardsman. She would say — ** Oh, 
I know all about Versailles ; I went there with Mr. Bantling. 
I was bound to see it thoroughly — I warned him when we went 
out there that I was thorough ; so we spent three days at the 
hotel and wandered all over the place. It was lovely weather 
— ^a kind of Indian summer, only not so good. We just lived 
in that park. , Oh yes ; you can't tell me anything about 
Versailles." Henrietta appeared to have made arrangements 
to meet Mr. Bantling in the spring, in Italy. 



.; VOL. II. 



18 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



II. 

Mrs. Touchett, before arriving in Paris, had fixed a day 
for her departure; and by the middle of February she had begun 
to travel southward. She did not go directly to Florence, but 
interrupted her journey to pay a visit to her son, who at San 
Kemo, on the Italian shore of the Mediterranean, had been 
spending a dull, bright winter, under a white umbrella. Isabel 
went with her aunt, as a matter of course, though Mrs. Touchett, 
with her usual homely logic, had laid before her a pair of alter^ 
natives. 

" Now, of course you are completely your own mistress,*' she 
said. " Excuse me ; I don't mean that you were not so before. 
But you are on a different footing — property erects a kind of 
barrier. You can do a great many things if you are rich, which 
would be severely criticised if you were poor. You can go and 
come, you can travel alone, you can have your own establishment : 
I mean of course if you will take a companion — some decayed 
gentlewoman with a darned cashmere and dyed hair, who paints 
on velvet. You don't think you would like that 1 Of course 
you can do as you please ; I only want you to understand that 
you are at liberty. You might take Miss Stackpole as your dame 
de compagnie ; she would keep people off very well. I think, 
however, that it is a great deal better you should remain with 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. ' 19 

me, in spite of there being no obligation. It's better for several 
reasons, quite apart from your liking it. I shouldn't think you 
would like it, but I recommend you to make the sacrifice. Of 
course, whatever novelty there may have been at first in my 
society has quite passed away, and you see me as I am — a dull, 
obstinate, narrow-minded old woman.'* 

" I don't think you are at all dull," Isabel had replied to this. 

" But you do think I am obstinate and narrow-minded ? I 
told you so I " said Mrs. Touchett, with much elation at being 
justified. 

Isabel remained for the present with her aunt, because, in 
ppite of eccentric impulses, she had a great regard for what was 
usually deemed decent, and a young gentlewoman without visi- 
ble relations had always struck her as a flower without foliage. 
It was true that Mrs. Touchett's conversation had never again 
appeared so brilliant as that first afternoon in Albany, when she 
sat in her damp waterproof and sketched the opportunities that 
Europe would offer to a young person of taste. This, however, 
was in a great measure the girl's own fault; she had got a 
glimpse of her aunt's experience, and her imagination constantly 
anticipated the judgments and emotions of a woman who had 
very little of the same faculty. Apart from this, Mrs. Touchett 
had a great merit ; she was as honest as a pair of compasses. 
There was a comfort in her stiffness and firmness ; you knew 
exactly where to find her, and were never liable to chance 
encounters with her. On her own ground she was always to be 
found ; but she was never over-inquisitive as regards the terri- 
tory of her neighbour. Isabel came at last to have a kind of 
nndemonstrable pity for her ; there seemed something so dreary 
in the condition of a person whose nature had, as it were, so 
little surface — offered so limited a face to the accretions of 

2 



20 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

human contact, Nothing tender, nothing sympathetic, had ever 
had a chance to fasten upon it — ^no wind-sown blossom, no 
familiar moss. Her passive extent, in other words, was about 
that of a knife-edge. Isabel had reason to believe, however, 
that as she advanced in life she grew more disposed to confer 
those sentimental favours which she was still unable to accept — 
to sacrifice consistency to considerations of that inferior order 
for which the excuse must be found in the particular case. It 
was not to the credit of her absolute rectitude that she should 
have gone the longest way round to Florence, in order to spend 
a few weeks with her invalid son ; for in former years it had 
been one of her most definite convictions that when Ealph 
wished to see her he was at liberty to remember that the Palazzo 
Crescentini contained a spacious apartment which was known as 
the room of the signorino. 

" I want to ask you something," Isabel said to this young 
man, the day after her arrival at San Remo — " something that I 
have thought more than once of asking you by letter, but that I 
have hesitated on the whole to write about. Face to face, never- 
theless, my question seems easy enough. Did you know that 
your father intended to leave me so much money ? " 

Ralph stretched his legs a little further than usual, and gazed 
a little more fixedly at the Mediterranean. "What does it 
matter, my dear Isabel, whether I knew ] My father was very 
obstinate." 

" So," said the girl, '*you did know." 

" Yes ; he told me. We even talked it over a little." 

" What did he do it for ? " asked Isabel, abruptly. 

" Why, as a kind of souvenir. " 

" He liked me too much," said Isabel. 

" That's a way we all have." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 21 

" If I believed that, I should be very unhappy. Fortunately 
I don't believe it. I want to be treated with justice ; I want 
nothing but that." 

** Very good. But you must remember that justice to a lovely 
being is after all a florid sort of sentiment." 

" I am not a lovely being. How can you say that, at the very 
moment when I am asking such odious questions 1 I must seem 
to you delicate." 

" You seem to me troubled," said Ealph. 

'' I am troubled." 

" About what ? " 

For a moment she answered nothing ; then she broke out — 

" Do you think it good for me suddenly to be made so rich 1 
Henrietta doesn't." 

" Oh, hang Henrietta ! " said Ealph, coarsely. ** If you ask 
me, I am delighted at it." 

" Is fliat why your father did it — for your amusement?" 

**I differ with Miss Stackpole," Ralph said, more gravely. 
" I think it's very good for you to have means." 

Isabel looked at him a moment with serious eyes. " I wonder 
whether you know what is good for me — or whether you care." 

" If I know, depend upon it I care. Shall I tell you what it 
is ] Not to torment yourself." 

" !N"ot to torment you, I suppose you mean." 

" You can't do that ; I am proof. Take things more easily. 
Don't ask yourself so much whether this or that is good for you. 
Don't question your conscience so much — ^it will get out of tune, 
like a strummed piano. Keep it for great occasions. Don't try 
80 much to form your character — ^it's like trying to pull open a 
rosebud. live as you like best, and your character will form 
itself. Most things are good for you 3 the exceptions are very 



22 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

rare, and a comfortable income is not one of them." Ralph 
paused, smiling ; Isabel had listened quickly. " You have too 
much conscience," Ralph added. " It's out of all reason, the 
number of things you think wrong. Spread your wings ; rise 
above the ground. It*s never wrong to do that." 

She had listened eagerly, as I say ; and it was her nature to 
understand quickly. 

" I wonder if you appreciate what you say. K you do, you 
take a great responsibility." 

" You frighten me a little, but I think I am right," said 
Ralph, continuing to smile. 

" All the same, what you say is very true," Isabel went on. 
*' You could say nothing more true. I am absorbed in myself — 
I look at life too much as a doctor's prescription. Why, indeed, 
should we perpetually be thinking whether things are good for 
us, as if we were patients lying in a hospital 1 Why should I 
be so afraid of not doing right ] As if it mattered to the world 
whether I^do right or wrong ! " 

" You are a capital person to advise," said Ralph ; " you take 
the wind out of my sails ! " 

She looked at him as if she had not heard him — though she 
was following out the train of reflection which he himself had 
kindled. " I try to care more about the world than about my- 
self — but I always come back to myself. It's because I am 
afraid." She stopped ; her voice had trembled a little. "Yes, 
I am afraid ; I can't tell you. A large fortune means freedom, 
and I am afraid of that. It's such a fine thing, £md one should 
make such a good use of it. If one shouldn't, one would be 
ashamed. And one must always be thinking — it's a constant 
effort. I am not sure that it's not a greater happiness to be 
powerless." 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 23 

" For weak people I have no doubt it's a greater happiness. 
For weak people the effort not to be contemptible must be 
great.'* 

** And how do you know I am not weak 1 " Isabel asked. 

" Ah," Ealph answered, with a blush which the girl noticed, 
** if you are, I am awfully sold ! " 

The charm of the Mediterranean coast only deepened for our 
heroine on acquaintance ; for it was the threshold of Italy — the 
gate of admirations. Italy, as yet imperfectly seen and felt, 
stretched before her as a land of promise, a land in which a love 
of the beautiful might be comforted by endless knowledge. 
Whenever she strolled upon the shore with her cousin — and she 
was the companion of his daily walk — she looked a while across 
the sea, with longing eyes, to where she knew that Genoa lay. 
She was glad to pause, however, on the edge of this larger 
knowledge ; the stillness of these soft weeks seemed good to her. 
They were a peaceful interlude in a career which she had little 
warrant as yet for regarding as agitated, but which nevertheless 
she was constantly picturing to herself by the light of her hopes, 
her fears, her fancies, her ambitions, her predilections, and which 
reflected these subjective accidents in a manner sufficiently dra^ 
matic. Madame Merle had predicted to Mrs. Touchett that after 
Isabel had put her hand into her pocket half-a-dozen times she 
would be reconciled to the idea that it had been filled by a 
munificent uncle ; and the event justified, as it had so often 
justified before, Madame Merle's perspicacity. Ealph Touchett 
had praised his cousin for being morally inflammable ; that is, 
for being quick to take a hint that was meant as good advice. 
His advice had perhaps helped the matter ; at any rate before 
she left San Eemo she had grown used to feeling rich. The 
consciousness found a place in rather a dense little group of ideas 



24 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

that she had about her herself, and often it was by no means the 
least agreeable. It was a perpetual implication of good inten- 
tions. She lost herself in a maze of visions ; the fine things a 
rich, independent, generous girl, who took a large, human view 
of her opportunities and obligations, might do, were really innu- 
merable. Her fortune therefore became to her mind a part of 
her better self ; it gave her importance, gave her even, to her 
own imagination, a certain ideal beauty. What it did for her in 
the imagination of others is another afifair, and on this point we 
must also touch in time. The visions I have just spoken of 
were intermingled with other reveries. Isabel liked better to 
think of the future than of the past ; but at times, as she listened 
to the murmur of the Mediterranean waves, her glance took a 
backward flight. It rested upon two figures which, in spite of 
increasing distance, were still sufficiently salient; they were 
recognisable without difficulty as those of Caspar Goodwood and 
Lord Warburton. It was strange how quickly these gentlemen 
had fallen into the backgi-ound of our young lady^s life. It was 
in her disposition at all times to lose faith in the reality of 
absent things ; she could summon back her faith, in case of need, 
with an effort, but the effort was often painful, even when the 
reality had been pleasant. The past was apt to look dead, and 
its revival to wear the supernatural aspect of a resurrection. 
Isabel moreover was not prone to take for granted that she her- 
self lived in the mind of others — she had not the fatuity to 
believe that she left indelible traces. She was capable of being 
wounded by the discovery that she had been forgotten ; and 
yet, of all liberties, the one she herself found sweetest was the 
liberty to forget. She had not given her last shilling, sentiment- 
ally speaking, either to Caspar Goodwood or to Lord Warbur- 
ton, and yet she did not regard them as appreciably in her debt. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 25 

She had, of course, reminded herself that she was to hear from 
Mr. Goodwood again ; but this was not to be for another year 
and a half, and in that time a great many things might happen. 
Isabel did not say to herself that her American suitor might find 
some other girl more comfortable to woo ; because, though it was 
certain that many other girls would prove so, she had not the 
smallest belief that this merit would attract him. But she 
reflected that she herself might change her humour — might 
weary of those things that were not Caspar (and there were so 
many things that were not Caspar !), and might find satisfaction 
in the very qualities which struck her to-day as his limitations. 
It was conceivable that his limitations should some day prove a 
sort of blessing in disguise — a clear and quiet harbour, inclosed 
by a fine granite breakwater. But that day could only come in 
its order, and she could not wait for it with folded hands. That 
Lord Warburton should continue to cherish her image seemed to 
her more than modesty should not only expect, but even desire. 
She had so definitely undertaken to forget him, as a lover, that 
a corresponding effort on his own part would be eminently pro- 
per. This was not, as it may seem, merely a theory tinged with 
sarcasm. Isabel really believed that his lordship would, in 
the usual phrase, get over it. He had been deeply smitten — 
this she believed, and she was still capable of deriving pleasure 
from the belief; but it was absurd that a man so completely 
absolved from fidelity should stiffen himself in an attitude 
it would be more graceful to discontinue. Englishmen liked 
to be comfortable, said Isabel, and there could be little com- 
fort for Lord Warburton, in the long run, in thinking of a 
self-sufficient American girl who had been but a casual acquaint- 
ance. Isabel flattered herself that should she hear, from one 
day to another, that he had married some young lady of 



26 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

his own country who had done more to deserve him, she 
should receive the news without an impulse of jealousy. It 
would have proved that he believed she was firm — which 
was what she wished to seem to him; and this was grateful 
to her pride. 



I 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 27 



III. 

On one of the first days of May, some six months after old 
Mr. Touchett's death, a picturesque little group was gathered in 
one of the many rooms of an ancient villa which stood on the 
summit of an olive-muffled hill, outside of the Eoman gate of 
Florence. The villa was a long, rather blank-looking structure, 
with the fer-projecting roof which Tuscany loves, and which, on 
the hills that encircle Florence, when looked at from a distance, 
makes so harmonious a rectangle with the straight, dark, definite 
cypresses that usually rise, in groups of three or four, beside it. 
The house had a front upon a little grassy, empty, rural piazza 
which occupied a part of the hill-top ; and this front, pierced 
with a few windows in irregular relations and furnished with a 
stone bench which ran along the base of the structure and usually 
afforded a lounging-place to one or two persons wearing more or 
less of that air of under-valued merit which in Italy, for some 
reason or other, always gracefully invests any one who confi- 
dently assumes a perfectly passive attitude — this ancient, solid, 
weather-worn, yet imposing front, had a somewhat incommuni- 
cative character. It was the mask of the house ; it was not 
its face. It had heavy lids, but no eyes ; the house in reality 
looked another way — looked off behind, into splendid openness 
and the range of the afternoon light. In that quarter the villa 



28 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

overhung the slope of its hill and the long valley of the Arno, 
hazy with Italian colour. It had a narrow garden, in the man- 
ner of a terrace, productive chiefly of tangles of wild roses and 
old stone benches, mossy and sun-warmed. The parapet of the 
terrace was just the height to lean upon, and beneath it the 
ground declined into the vagueness of olive-crops and vineyards. 
It is not, however, with the outside of the place that we are 
concerned ; on this bright morning of ripened spring its tenants 
had reason to prefer the shady side of the wall. The windows 
of the ground-floor, as you saw them from the piazza, were, in 
their noble proportions, extremely architectural ; but their func- 
tion seemed to be less to offer communication with the world 
than to defy the world to look in. They were massively cross- 
barred and placed at such a height that curiosity, even on tip- 
toe, expired before it reached them. In an apartment lighted by 
a row of three of these obstructive apertures — one of the several 
distinct apartments into which the villa was divided, and which 
were mainly occupied by foreigners of conflicting nationality 
long resident in Florence — a gentleman was seated, in company 
with a young girl and two good sisters from a religious house. 
The room was, however, much less gloomy than my indications 
may have represented, for it had a wide, high door, which now 
stood open into the tangled garden behind ; and the tall iron 
lattices admitted on occasion more than enough of the Italian 
sunshine. The place, moreover, was almost luxuriously comfort- 
able ; it told of habitation being practised as a fine art. It con- 
tained a variety of those faded hangings of damask and tapestry, 
those chests and cabinets of carved and time-polished oak, those 
primitive specimens of pictorial art in frames pedantically rusty, 
those perverse-looking relics of mediaeval brass and pottery, of 
which Italy has long been the not quite exhausted storehouse. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 29 

These things were intermingled with articles of modern furni- 
ture, in which liberal concession had been made to cultivated 
sensibilities ; it was to be noticed that all the chairs were deep 
and well padded, and that much space was occupied by a writ- 
ing-table of which the ingenious perfection bore the stamp of 
London and the nineteenth century. There were books in pro- 
fusion, and magazines and newspapers, and a few small modern 
pictures, chiefly in water-colour. One of these productions stood 
on a drawing-room easel, before which, at the moment when we 
begin to be concerned with her, the young girl I have mentioned 
had placed herself. She was looking at the picture in silence. 

Silence — absolute silence — had not fallen upon her com- 
panions ; but their conversation had an appearance of embar- 
rassed continuity. The two good sisters had not settled them- 
selves in their respective chairs ; their attitude was noticeably 
provisional, and they evidently wished to emphasise the transi- 
tory character of their presence. They were plain, comfortable, 
mild-faced women, with a kind of business-like modesty, to 
which the impersonal aspect of their stiffened linen and inexpress- 
ive serge gave an advantage. One of them, a person of a cer- 
tain age, in spectacles, with a fresh complexion and a full cheek, 
had a more discriminating manner than her colleague, and had 
evidently the responsibility of their errand, which apparently 
related to the young girl. This young lady wore her hat — a 
coiffure of extreme simplicity, which was not at variance with a 
plain muslin gown, too short for the wearer, though it must 
already have been " let out." The gentleman who might have 
been supposed to be entertaining the two nuns was perhaps 
conscious of the difficulties of his function ; to entertain a 
nun is, in fact, a sufficiently delicate operation. At the same 
time he was plainly much interested in his youthful companion, 



30 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

and while she turned her back to him his eyes rested gravely 
upon her slim, small figure. He was a man of forty, with a 
well-shaped head, upon which the hair, still dense, but prema- 
tiirely grizzled, had been cropped close. He had a thin, delicate, 
sharply-cut face, of which the only fault was that it looked too 
pointed ; an appearance to which the shape of his beard contri- 
buted not a little. This beard, cut in the manner of the por- 
traits of the sixteenth century and surmounted by a fair mous- 
tache, of which the ends had a picturesque upward flourish, gave 
its wearer a somewhat foreign, traditionary look, and suggested 
that he was a gentleman who studied effect. His luminous 
intelligent eye, an eye which expressed both softness and keen- 
ness — the nature of the observer as well as of the dreamer — 
would have assured you, however, that he studied it only within 
well-chosen limits, and that in so far as he sought it he found it. 
You would have been much at a loss to determine his national- 
ity ; he had none of the superficial signs that usually render the 
answer to this question an insipidly easy one. If he had Eng- 
lish blood in his veins, it had probably received some French or 
Italian commixture ; he was one of those persons who, in the 
matter of race, may, as the phrase is, pass for anything. He 
had a light, lean, lazy-looking figure, and was apparently neither 
tall nor short. He was dressed as a man dresses who takes little 
trouble about it. 

" Well, my dear, what do you think of it?" he asked of the 
young girl. He used the Italian tongue, and used it with 
perfect ease ; but this would not have convinced you that he was 
an Italian. 

The girl turned her head a little to one side and the other. 

" It is very pretty, papa. Did you make it yourself ] " 

" Yes, my child ; I made it. Don't you think I am clever } " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 31 

"Yes, papa, very clever; I also have learned to make pic- 
tures." And she turned round and showed a small, fair face, of 
which the natural and usual expression seemed to be a smile of 
perfect sweetness. 

" You should have brought me a specimen of your powers." 

" I have brought a great many ; they are in my trunk," said 
the child. 

"She draws very — very carefully," the elder of the nuns 
remarked, speaking in FrencL 

"I am glad to hear it. Is it you who have instructed 
her ? " 

" Happily, no," said the good sister, blushing a little. " Ce 
rCed pas ma partie. I teach nothing ; I leave that to those who 
are wiser. We have an excellent drawing-master, Mr. — ^Mr. — 
what is his name 1 " she asked of her companion. 

Her companion looked about at the carpet. 

" It's a German name," she said in Italian, as if it needed to 
be translated. 

" Yes," the other went on, " he is a German, and we have had 
him for many years." 

The young girl, who was not heeding the conversation, had 
wandered away to the open door of the large room, and stood 
looking into the garden. 

" And you, my sister, are French," said the gentleman. 

" Yes, sir," the woman replied, gently. " I speak to the pupils 
in my own language. I know no other. But we have sisters of 
other countries — English, German, Irish. They all speak their 
own tongue." 

The gentleman gave a smile. 

" Has my daughter been under the care of one of the Irish 
ladies 1 " And then, as he saw that his visitors suspected a joke 



32 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

but failed to understand it — " You are very complete," he said, 
instantly. 

" Oh, yes, we are complete. We have everything, and every- 
thing is of the best." 

" We have gymnastics," the Italian sister ventured to remark. 
" But not dangerous." 

"I hope not. Is that your branch]" A question which 
provoked much candid hilarity on the part of the two ladies ; on 
the subsidence of which their entertainer, glancing at his daughter, 
remarked that she had grown. 

" Yes, but I think she has finished. She will remain little," 
said the French sister. 

" I am not sorry. I like little women," the gentleman declared, 
frankly. "But I know no particular reason why my child 
should be short." 

The nun gave a temperate shrug, as if to intimate that such 
things might be beyond our knowledge. 

" She is in very good health ; that is the best thing." 

" Yes, she looks well. '* And the young girl's father watched her 
a moment. " What do you see in the garden? " he asked, in French. 

" I see many flowers," she replied, in a sweet, small voice, 
and with a French accent as good as his own. 

" Yes, but not many good ones. However, such as they are, 
go out and gather some for ces dames,** 

The child turned to him, with her smile brightened by pleasure. 
" May I, truly 1 " she asked. 

" Ah, when I tell you," said her father. 

The girl glanced at the elder of the nuns. 

" May I, truly, ma wh-e ? " 

"Obey monsieur your father, my child," said the sister, 
blushing again. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 88 

The child, satisfied with this authorisation, descended from the 
threshold, and was presently lost to sight. 

** You don't spoil them," said her father, smiling. 

" For everything they must ask leave. That is our system. 
Leave is freely granted, but they must ask it." 

" Oh, I don't quarrel with your system ; I have no doubt it is 
a very good one. I sent you my daughter to see what you would 
make of her. I had faith." 

« One mu8t Lave faitV the sister blaudly rejoined, gazing 
through her spectacles. 

" Well, has my faith been rewarded 1 What have you made 
of her ] " 

The sister dropped her eyes a moment. 

" A good Christian, monsieur." 

Her host dropped his eyes as well ; but it was probable that 
the movement had in each case a different spring. 

" Yes," he said in a moment, " and what else 1 " 

He watched the lady from the convent, probably thinking 
that she would say that a good Christian was everything. 

But for all her simplicity, she was not so crude as that. " A 
charming young lady — a real little woman — a daughter in whom 
you will have nothing but contentment." 

" She seems to me very nice," said the father. " She is very 
pretty." 

" She is perfect. She has no faults." 

" She never had any as a child, and I am glad you have given 
her none." 

" We love her too much," said the spectacled sister, with dig- 
nity. " And as for faults, how can we give what we have not 1 
Le convent rHest pas comme le monde, monsieur. She is our child 
as you may say. We have had her since she was so smalL" 

VOL. II. D 



84 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Of all those we shall lose this year she is the one we shall 
miss most," the younger woman murmured, deferentially. 

"Ah, yes, we shall talk long of her," said the other. *' We 
shall hold her up to the new ones." 

And at this the good sister appeared to find her spectacles 
dim ; while her companion, after fumbling a moment, presently 
drew forth a pocket-handkerchief of durable texture. 

" It is not certain that you will lose her ; nothing is settled 
yet," the host rejoined, quickly; not as if to anticipate their 
tears, but in the tone of a man saying what was most agreeable 
to himself. 

" We should be very happy to believe that. Fifteen is very 
young to leave us." 

" Oh," exclaimed the gentleman, with more vivacity than he 
had yet used, " it is not I who wish to take her away. I wish 
you could keep her always ! " 

''Ah, monsieur," said the elder sister, smiling and getting 
up, '' good as she is, she is made for the world. Le monde y 
gcbgnera^ 

" If all the good people were hidden away in convents, how 
would the world get on % " her companion softly inquired, rising 
also. 

This was a question of a wider bearing than the good woman 
apparently supposed ; and the lady in spectacles took a harmon* 
ising view by saying comfortably — 

** Fortunately there are good people everywhere." 

"If you are going there will be two less here," her host 
remarked, gallantly. 

For this extravagant sally his simple visitors had no answer, 
and they simply looked at each other in decent deprecation ; but 
their confusion was speedily covered by the return of the young 




THE PORTRAIT OF A JADY. 35 

girl, with two large bunches of loses— one of them all white, the 
other red. 

^' I give you your choice, mamman Catherine,*' said the child. 
*^ It is only the colour that is different, mamman Justine ; there 
are just as many roses in one bunch as another." 

The two sisters turned to each other, smiling and hesitating, with 
— " Which will you take ? " and " No, it's for you to choose." 

'^ I will take the red," said mother Catherine, in the spec- 
tacles. "I am so red myself. They will comfort us on our 
way back to Eome." 

"Ah, they won't last," cried the young girL "I wish I 
could give you something that would last ! " 

" You have given us a good memory of yourself, my daughter. 
That will last ! " 

" I wish nuns could wear pretty things. I would give you 
my blue beads," the child went on. 

" And do you go back to Rome to-night 1 " her father asked. 

"Yes, we take the train again. We have so much to do 
M-fecw." 

" Axe you not tired 1 " 

" We are never tired." 

" Ah, my sister, sometimes," murmured the junior votaress. 

" Not to-day, jit any rate. We have rested too well here. 
Que Dieu vous garde^ maJUleJ* 

Their host, while they exchanged kisses with his daughter,i 
went forward to open the door through which they were to 
pass ; but as he did so he gave a slight exclamation, and stood 
looking beyond. The door opened into a vaulted ante-chamber, 
as high as a chapel, and paved with red tiles ; and into this 
ante-chamber a lady had just been admitted by a servant, a 
lad in shabby livery, who was now ushering her toward the 

D 2 



36 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

apartment in which our friends were grouped. The gentleman 
at the door, after dropping his exclamation, remained silent; in 
silence, too, the lady advanced. He gave her no further audible 
greeting, and offered her no hand, but stood aside to let her pass 
into the drawing-room. At the threshold she hesitated. 

" Is there any one 1 *' she asked. 

" Some one you may see." 

She went in, and found herself confronted with the two nuns 
and their pupil, who was coming forward between them, with a 
hand in the arm of each. At the sight of the new visitor they 
all paused, and the lady, who had stopped too, stood looking at 
them. The young girl gave a little soft cry — 

" Ah, Madame Merle ! '* 

The visitor had been slightly startled ; but her manner the 
next instant was none the less gracious. 

" Yes, it's Madame Merle, come to welcome you home." 

And she held out two hands to the girl, who immediately 
came up to her, presenting her forehead to be kissed. Madame 
Merle saluted this portion of her charming little person, and 
then stood smiling at the two nuns. They acknowledged her 
smile with a decent obeisance, but permitted themselves no direct 
scrutiny of this imposing, briUiant woman, who seeined to bring 
in with her something of the radiance of the outer world. 

" These ladies have brought my daughter home, and now they 
return to the convent," the gentleman explained. 

" Ah, you go back to Eome ? I have lately come from there. 
It is very lovely now," said Madame Merle. 

The good sisters, standing with their hands folded into their 
sleeves, accepted this statement uncritically ; and the master of 
the house asked Madame Merle how long it was since she had 
left Eome. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 87 

" She came to see me at the convent," said the young girl, 
before her father's visitors had time to reply. 

"I have been more than once, Pansy," Madame Merle 
answered. " Am I not your great friend in Eome 1 " 

**I remember the last time best,'* said Pansy, "because you 
told me I should leave the place." 

"Did you tell her that?" the child's father asked. 

" I hardly remember. I told her what I thought would 
please her. I have been in Florence a week. I hoped you 
would come and see me." 

" I should have done so if I had known you were here. One 
doesn't know such things by inspiration — though I suppose one 
ought You had better sit down." 

These two speeches were made in a peculiar tone of voice — a 
tone half-lowered, and carefully quiet, but as from habit rather 
than from any definite need. 

Madame Merle looked about her, choosing her seat. 

" You are going to the door with these women ? Let me of 
course not interrupt the ceremony. Je vous salue, mesdameSf* 
she added, in French, to the nuns, as if to dismiss them. 

" This lady is a great friend of ours ; you will have seen her 
at the convent," said the host. " We have much faith in her 
judgment, and she will help me to decide whether my daughter 
shall return to you at the end of the holidays." 

" I hope you will decide in our favour, madam," the sister in 
spectacles ventured to remark. 

"That is Mr. Osmond's pleasantry; I decide nothing," said 
Madame Merle, smiling still " I believe you have a very good 
school, but Miss Osmond's friends must remember that she is 
meant for the world." 

" That is what I have told monsieur," sister Catherine 



38 THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY. 

answered. "It is precisely to fit her for the world," she 
murmured, glancing at Pansy, who stood at a little distance, 
looking at Madame Merle's elegant apparel. 

" Do you hear that, Pansy ? You are meant for the world," 
said Pansy's father. 

The child gazed at him an instant with her pure young eyes. 

" Am I not meant for you, papa 1 " she asked. 

Papa gave a quick, Hght laugh. 

" That doesn't prevent it ! I am of the world. Pansy." 

"Kindly permit us to retire," said sister Catherine. **Be 
good, in any case, my daughter." 

" I shall certainly come back and see you," Pansy declared, 
recommencing her embraces, which were presently interrupted 
by Madame Merle. 

" Stay with me, my child," she said, " while your father 
takes the good ladies to the door." 

Pansy stared, disappointed, but not protesting. She was 
evidently impregnated with the idea of submission, which was 
due to any one who took the tone of authority ; and she was a 
passive spectator of the operation of her fate. 

" May I not see mamman Catherine get into the carriage 1 " 
she asked very gently. 

" It would please me better if you would remain with me," 
said Madame Merle, while Mr. Osmond and his companions, 
who had bowed low again to the other visitor, passed into the 
ante-chamber. 

" Oh yes, I will stay," Pansy answered 5 and she stood near 
Madame Merle, surrendering her little hand, which this lady took. 
She stared out of the window ; her eyes had filled with tears. 

" I am glad they have taught you to obey," said Madame 
Merle. " That is what little girls should do." 



THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY. 89 

"Oh yes, I obey very well/' said Pansy, with soft eagerness, 
almost with boastfiiLness, as if she had been speaking of hei 
piano-playing. And then she gave a faint, just audible sigh. 

Madame Merle, holding her hand, drew it across her own 
fine palm and looked at it. The gaze was critical, but it found 
nothing to deprecate; the child's small hand was delicate and fair. 

" I hope they always see that you wear gloves," she said in 
a moment. '' Little girls usually dislike them." 

''I used to dislike them, but I like them now," the child 
answered. 

" Very good, I will make you a present of a dozen." 

"I thank you very much. What colours will they bel" 
P^nsy demanded, with interest. 

Madame Merle meditated a moment 

" Useful colours." 

'* But will they be pretty ? " 

" Are you fond of pretty things ? " 

" Yes ; but — but not too fond," said Pansy, with a trace of 
asceticism; 

" Well, they will not be too pretty," Madame Merle answered, 
with a laugh. She took the child's other hand, and drew her 
nearer ; and then, looking at her a moment — " Shall you miss 
mother Catherine V* 

" Yes — when I think of her." 

" Try, then, not to think of her. Perhaps some day," added 
Madame Merle, "you will have another mother." 

" I don't think that is necessary," Pansy said, repeating her 
little soft, conciliatory sigh. " I had more than thirty mothers 
at the convent." 

Her father's step sounded again in the ante-chamber, and 
Madame Merle got up, releasing the child. Mr. Osmond came 



40 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

in and closed the door ; then, without looking at Madame Merle, 
he pushed one or two chairs hack into their places. 

His visitor waited a moment for him to speak, watching him 
as he moved ahout. Then at last she said — " I hoped you would 
have come to Rome. I thought it possible you would have 
come to fetch Pansy away." 

" That was a natural supposition ; hut I am afraid it is not 
the first time I have acted in defiance of your calculations.*' 

" Yes," said Madame Merle, " I think you are very 
perverse." 

Mr. Osmond busied himself for a moment in the room — there 
was plenty of space in it to move ahout — in the fashion of a 
man mechanically seeking pretexts for not giving an attention 
which may he embarrassing. Presently, however, he had ex- 
hausted his pretexts; there was nothing left for him — unless 
he took up a book — ^but to stand with his hands behind him, 
looking at Pansy. " Why didn't you come and see the last of 
mamman Catherine ? " he asked of her abruptly, in French. 

Pansy hesitated a moment, glancing at Madame Merle. " I 
asked her to stay with me," said this lady, who had seated 
herself again in another place. 

"Ah, that was better," said Osmond. Then, at last, he 
dropped into a chair, and sat looking at Madame Merle ; leaning 
forward a little, with his elbows on the edge of the arms and 
his hands interlocked. 

" She is going to give me some gloves," said Pansy. 

" You needn't tell that to every one, my dear," Madame Merle 
observed. 

" You are very kind to her," said Osmond. " She is sup- 
posed to have everything she needs." 

" I should think she had had enough of the nuns." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 41 

" If we are going to discuss that matter, she had better go 
out of the room." 

"Let her stay," said Madame Merle. "We will talk of 
something else." 

"If you like, I won't listen," Pansy suggested, with an 
appearance of candour which imposed conviction. 

" You may listen, charming child, because you won't under- 
stand," her father replied. The child sat down deferentially, 
near the open door, within sight of the garden, into which she 
directed her innocent, wistful eyes ; and Mr. Osmond went on, 
irrelevantly, addressing himself to his other companion. " You 
are looking particularly well." 

" I think I always look the same," said Madame Merle. 

"You always are the same. You don't vary. You are a 
wonderful woman." 

"Yes, I think I am." 

" You sometimes change your mind, however. You told me 
on your return from England that you would not leave Eome 
again for the present. " 

" I am pleased that you remember so weU what I say. That 
was my intention. But I have come to Florence to meet some 
friends who have lately arrived, and as to whose movements I 
was at that time uncertain." 

" That reason is characteristic. You are always doing some- 
thing for your friends." 

Madame Merle looked straight at her interlocutor, smiling. 
" It is less characteristic than your comment upon it — which is 
perfectly insincere. I don't, however, make a crime of that," 
she added, " because if you don't believe what you say there is 
no reason why you should. I don't ruin myself for my friends ; 
I don't deserve your praise. I care greatly for myself." 



42 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

"Exactly; but yourself includes so many other selves — so 
much, of everything. I never knew a person whose life touched 
so many other lives." 

" What do you call one's life 1 " asked Madame Merle. " One's 
appearance, one's movements, one's engagements, one's society 1 " 

^ I call your life — your ambitions," said Osmond. 

Madame Merle looked a moment at Pansy. "I wonder 
whether she understands that," she murmured. 

" You see she can't stay with us ! " And Pansy's father gave 
a rather joyless smile. " Go into the garden, ma bonne, and 
pluck a flower or two for Madame Merle," he went on, in 
French. 

" That's just what I wanted to do," Pansy exclaimed, rising 
with promptness and noiselessly departing. Her father followed 
her to the open door, stood a moment watching her, and then 
came back, but remained standing, or rather strolling to and 
fro, as if to cultivate a sense of freedom which in another atti- 
tude might be wanting. 

" My ambitions are principally for you," said Madame Merle, 
looking up at him with a certain nobleness of expression. 

" That comes back to what I say. I am part of your life — I 
and a thousand others. You are not selfish — I can't admit that. 
If you were selfish, what should I be ? What epithet would 
properly describe me ? " 

" You are indolent. For me that is your worst fault." 

" I am afraid it is really my best." 

" You don't care," said Madame Merle, gravely. 

" No ; I don't think I care much. What sort of a fault do 
you call thati My indolence, at any rate, was one of the 
reasons I didn^t go to Eome. But it was only one of them." 

" It is not of importance — ^to me at least — that you didn't 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 48 

go ; though I should have been glad to see you. I am glad 
that you are not in Borne now — ^which you might be, would 
probably be, if you had gone there a month ago. There is 
something I should like you to do at present in Florence." 

" Please remember my indolence/' said Osmond. 

" I will remember it ; but I beg you to forget it. In that 
way you will haye both the virtue and the reward. This is not 
a great labour, and it may prove a great pleasure. How long is 
it since you made a new acquaintance ? " 

** I don't think I have made any since I made yours." 

''It is time you should make another, then. There is a 
friend of mine I want you to know." 

Mr. Osmond, in his walk, had gone back to the open door 
again, and was looking at his daughter, as she moved about in 
the intense sunshine. '' What good will it do me ? " he asked, 
with a sort of genial crudity. 

Madame Merle reflected a moment. " It will amuse you." 
There was nothing crude in this rejoinder ; it had been thoroughly 
well considered. 

" If you say that, I believe it," said Osmond, coming toward 
her. '* There are some points in which my confidence in you is 
complete. I am perfectly aware, for instance, that you know 
good society from bad." 

'^ Society is all bad." 

*' Excuse me. That isn't a common sort of wisdom. You have 
gained it in the right way — experimentally ; you have compared 
an immense number of people with each other." 

" "Well, I invite you to profit by my knowledge." 

" To profit ? Are you very sure that I shall 1 " 

" It's what I hope. It will depend upon yourself. If I could 
only induce you to make an effort ! '* 



44 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Ah, there you are I I knew something tiresome was coming. 
What in the world — that is likely to turn up here — is worth an 
effort 1 " 

Madame Merle flushed a little, and her eye betrayed vexation. 
" Don't be foolish, Osmond. There is no one knows better than 
you that there are many things worth an effort." 

" Many things, I admit. But they are none of them probable 
things." 

" It is the effort that makes them probable," said Madame 
Merle. 

" There's something in that. Who is your friend 1 " 

"The person I came to Florence to see. She is a niece of 
Mrs. Touchett, whom you will not have forgotten." 

" A niece 1 The word niece suggests youth. I see what you 
are coming to." 

" Yes, she is young — twenty-two years old. She is a great 
friend of mine. I met her for the first time in England, several 
months ago, and we took a great fancy to each other. I like her 
immensely, and I do what I don't do every day — I admire her. 
You will do the sama" 

" Not if I can help it." 

** Precisely. But you won't be able to help it" 

"Is 'she beautiful, clever, rich, splendid, universally intelli- 
gent and unprecedentedly virtuous 1 It is only on those condi- 
tions that I care to make her acquaintance. You know I asked 
you some time ago never to speak to me of any one who should 
not correspond to that description. I know plenty of dingy 
people ; I don't want to know any more." 

" Miss Archer is not dingy ; she's as bright as the morning. 
She corresponds to your description 5 it ia for that I wish you to 
know her. She fills all your requirements." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 45 

" More or less, of course." 

^ No ; quite literally. She is beautiful, accomplished, gener- 
ous, and for an American, well-born. She is also very clever 
and very amiable, and she has a handsome fortune." 

Mr. Osmond listened to this in silence, appearing to turn it 
over in his mind, with his eyes on his informant. '' What do 
you want to do with her 1 " he asked, at last. 

** What you see. Put her in your way." 

** Isn't she meant for something better than that ? " 

^' I don't pretend to know what people are meant for," said 
Madame Merle. ** I only know what I can do with them." 

" I am sorry for Miss Archer ! " Osmond declared. 

Madame Merle got up. '^ If that is a beginning of interest in 
her, I take note of it." 

The two stood there^ fSeuie to face ; she settled her mantilla, 
looking down at it as she did so. 

'* You are looking very well," Osmond repeated, still more 
irrelevantly than before. " You have got some idea. You are 
never as well as when you have got an idea ; they are always 
becoming to you." 

In the manner of these two persons, on first meeting on any 
occasion, and especially when they met in the presence of others, 
there was something indirect and circumspect, which showed 
itself in glance and tone. They approached each other obliquely, 
as it were, and they addressed each other by implication. The 
effect of each appeared to be to intensify to an embarrassing 
degree the self-consciousness of the other. Madame Merle of 
course carried off such embarrassments better than her friend ; 
but even Madame Merle had not on this occasion the manner 
she would have liked to have — the perfect self-possession she 
would have wished to exhibit to her host. The point I wish 



46 THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY. 

to make is, however, that at a certain moment the obstruction, 
whatever it was, always levelled itself, and left them more closely 
face to face than either of them ever was with any one else. 
This was what had happened now. They stood there, knowing 
each other well, and each of them on the whole willing to accept 
the satisfaction of knowing, as a compensation for the inconveni- 
ence — ^whatever it might be — of being known. 

" I wish very much you were not so heartless,*' said Madame 
Merle, quietly. " It has always been against you, and it will be 
against you now." 

" I am not so heartless as you think. Every now and then 
something touches me — as for instance your saying just now that 
your ambitions are for me. I don't understand it ; I don't 
see how or why they should be. But it touches me, all the 
same." 

" You will probably understand it even less as time goes on. 
There are some things you will never understand. There is no 
particular need that you should." 

"You, after all, are the most remarkable woman," said 
Osmond. "You have more in you than almost any one. I 
don't see why you think Mrs. Touchett's niece should matter 
very much to me, when — when ** and he paused a moment. 

" When I myself have mattered so little 1 " 

" That of course is not what I meant to say. When I have 
known and appreciated such a woman as you." 

" Isabel Archer is better than I," said Madame Merle. 

Her companion gave a laugh. " How little you must think 
of her to say that ! " 

" Do you suppose I am capable of jealousy ? Please answer 
me that." 

" With regard to me ? No ; on the whole I don't." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 47 

" Gome and see me, then, two days hence. I am staying at 
Mrs. Touchett's — ^the Palazzo Crescentini — and the girl will be 
there." 

" Why didn't you ask me that at first, simply, without speak- 
ing of the girl ? " said Osmond. ''You could have had her there 
at any rate." 

Madame Merle looked at him in the manner of a woman 
whom no question that he could ask would find unprepared. 
" Do you wish to know why ? Because I have spoken of you 
to her." 

Osmond frowned and turned away. *^ I would rather not 
know that." Then, in a moment, he pointed out the easel sup* t 
porting the little water-colour drawing. '^ Have you seen that 
—my last 1 " 

Madame Merle drew near and looked at it a moment. '^ Is it 
the Venetian Alps — one of your last year's sketches ? " 

" Yes — but how you guess everything 1 " 

Madame Merle looked for a moment longer ; then she turned 
away. " You know I don't care for your drawings." 

" I know it, yet I am always surprised at it. They are really 
so much better than most people's." 

" That may very well be. But as the only thing you do, it's 
so little. I should have liked you to do so many other things : 
those were my ambitions." 

" Yes ; you have told me many times — ^things that wera 
impossible." 

'' Things that were impossible," said Madame Merle. And 
then, in quite a different tone — " In itself your little picture is 
very good." She looked about the room — at the old cabinets, 
the pictures, the tapestries, the surfaces of faded silk. " Your 
rooms, at least, are perfect," she went on. " I am struck with 



48 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



that afresh, whenever I come back ; I know none better any- 
where. You understand this sort of thing as no one else 
does." 

" I am very sick of it," said Osmond. 

** You must let Miss Archer come and see all this. I have 
told her about it." 

" I don't object to showing my things — when people are not 
idiots." 

" You do it delightfully. As a'cicerone in your own museum 
you appear to particular advantage." 

Mr. Osmond, in return for this compliment, simply turned 
upon his companion an eye expressive of perfect clairvoyance. 

" Did you say she was rich 1 " he asked in a moment. 

" She has seventy thousand pounds." 

" En ecus hien comptes 9 ** 

" There is no doubt whatever about her fortune. I have seen 
it, as I may say." 

" Satisfactory woman ! — ^I mean you. And if I go to see her, 
shall I see the mother ] " 

" The mother 1 She has none — ^nor father either." 

" The aunt then ; whom did you say 1 — Mrs. Touchett." 

" I can easily keep her out of the way." 

" I don't object to her," said Osmond ; " I rather like Mrs. 
Touchett. She has a sort of old-fashioned character that is 
passing away — a vivid identity. But that long jackanapes, the 
son — is he about the place 1 " 

" He is there, but he won't trouble you." 

" He's an awful ass." 

" I think you are mistaken. He is a very clever man. But 
he is not fond of being about when I am there, because he doesn't 
Hke me." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 49 

" What could be more asinine than that 1 Did you say that 
she was pretty 1 " Osmond went on. 

" Yes ; but I won't say it again, lest you should be disap- 
pointed. Come and make a beginning ; that is all I ask of 
you." 

" A beginning of what 1 " 

Madame Merle was silent a moment " I want you of course 
to marry her." 

"The beginning of the end! Well, I will see for myself. 
Have you told her that 1 " 

" For what do you take me 1 She is a very delicate piece of 
machinery." 

" Eeally," said Osmond, after some meditation, " I don't 
understand your ambitions." 

" I think you will understand this one after you have seen 
Miss Archer. Suspend your judgment till then." Madame 
Merle, as she spoke, had drawn near the open door of the 
garden, where she stood a moment, looking out. "Pansy has 
grown pretty," she presently added. 

" So it seemed to me." 

" But she has had enough of the convent." 

" I don't know," said Osmond. " I like what they have made 
of her. It's very charming." 

" That's not the convent. It's the child's nature.'* 

" It's the combination, I think. She's as pure as a pearl." 

" Why doesn't she come back with my flowers, then 1 " Madame 
Merle asked. " She is not in a hurry." 

" We will go and get them," said her companion. 

" She doesn't like me," murmured Madame Merle, as she raised 
her parasol, and they passed into the garden. 

VOL. II. E 



60 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



lY. 

Madame Merle, who had come to Florence on Mrs. Touchett's 
arrival at the invitation of this lady — Mrs. Touchett offering her 
for a month the hospitality of the Palazzo Crescentini — the 
judicious Madame Merle spoke to Isahel afresh ahout Gilbert 
Osmond, and expressed the wish that she should know him ; but 
made no such point of the matter as we have seen her do in 
recommending the girl herself to Mr. Osmond's attention. The 
reason of this was perhaps that Isabel offered no resistance 
whatever to Madame Merle's proposal. In Italy, as in England, 
the lady had a multitude of friends, both among the natives of 
the country and its heterogeneous visitors. She had mentioned 
to Isabel most of the people the girl would find it well to know 
— of course, she said, Isabel could know whomever she would — 
and she had placed Mr. Osmond near the top of the list. He 
was an old friend of her own ; she had known him these ten 
years ; he was one of the cleverest and most agreeable men it 
was possible to meet. He was altogether above the respectable 
average ; quite another affair. He was not perfect — far from 
it ; the effect he produced depended a good deal on the state of 
his nerves and his spirits. If he were not in the right mood he 
could be very unsatisfactory — like most people, after all; but 
when he chose to exert himself no man could do it to better 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 51 

purpose. He liad his peculiarities — which indeed Isabel would 
find to be the case with all the men really worth knowing — ^and 
he did not cause his light to shine equally for all persons. 
Madame Merle, however, thought she could undertake that for 
Isabel he would be brilliant. He was easily bored — too easily, 
and dull people always put him out ; but a quick and cultivated 
girl like Isabel would give him a stimulus which was too absent 
from his life. At any rate, he Was a person to know. One 
should not attempt to live in Italy without making a friend of 
Gilbert Osmond, who knew more about the country than any 
one except two or three German professors. And if they had 
more knowledge than he, he had infinitely more taste ; he had a 
taste which was quite by itself. Isabel remembered that her 
friend had spoken of him during their multifarious colloquies at 
Gardencourt, and wondered a little what was the nature of the 
tie that united them. She was inclined to imagine that Madame 
Merle's ties were peculiar, and such a possibility was a part of 
the interest created by this suggestive woman. As regards her 
relations with Mr. Osmond, however, Madame Merle hinted at 
nothing but a long-established and tranquil friendship. Isab^^l 
said that she should be happy to know a person who had enjoyed 
her friend's confidence for so many years. " You ought to see a 
great many men," Madame Merle remarked ; " you ought to see 
as many as possible, so as to get used to them." 

" Used to them ] " Isabel repeated, with that exceedingly 
serious gaze which sometimes seemed to proclaim that she was 
deficient in a sense of humour — an intimation which at other 
moments she effectively refuted. " I am not afraid of them 1 " 

" Used to them, I mean, so as to despise them. That's what 
one comes to with most of them. You will pick out, for your 
society, the few whom you don't despise." 

E 2 



62 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

This remark had a bitterness which Madame Merle did not 
often allow herself to betray ; but Isabel was not alarmed by it, 
for she had never supposed that, as one saw more of the world, 
the sentiment of respect became the most active of one's emotions. 
This sentiment was excited, however, by the beautiful city of 
Florence, which pleased her not less than Madame Merle had 
promised ; and if her unassisted perception had not been able to 
gauge its charms, she had clever companions to call attention to 
latent merits. She was in no want, indeed, of aesthetic illumin- 
ation, for Ralph found it a pleasure which renewed his own 
earlier sensations, to act as cicerone to his eager young kinswoman. 
Madame Merle remained at home ; she had seen the treasures of 
Florence so often, and she had always something to do. But 
she talked of all things with remarkable vividness of memory — 
she remembered the right-hand angle in the large Perugino, and 
the position of the hands of the Saint Elizabeth in the picture 
next to it ; and had her own opinions as to the character of many 
famous works of art, differing often from Ealph with great sharp- 
ness, and defending her interpretations with as much ingenuity 
as good-humour. Isabel listened to the discussions which took 
place between the two, with a sense that she might derive much 
benefit from them and that they were among the advantages 
which — for instance — she could not have enjoyed in Albany. 
In the clear May mornings, before the formal breakfast — this 
repast at Mrs. Touchett*s was served at twelve o'clock — Isabel 
wandered about with her cousin through the narrow and sombre 
Florentine streets, resting a while in the thicker dusk of some 
historic church, or the vaulted chambers of some dispeopled con- 
vent. She went to the galleries and palaces ; she looked at the 
pictures and statues which had hitherto been great names to her, 
and exchanged for a knowledge which was sometimes a limitation 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 63 

a presentiment which proved usually to have been a blank. She 
performed all those acts of mental prostration in which, on a 
first visit to Italy, youth and enthusiasm so freely indulge ; she 
felt her heart beat in the presence of immortal genius, and knew 
the sweetness of rising tears in eyes to which faded fresco and 
darkened marble grew dim. But the return, every day, was even 
pleasanter than the going forth ; the return into the wide, monu- 
mental court of the great house in which Mrs. Touchett, many 
years before, had established herself, and into the high, cool 
rooms where carven rafters and pompous frescoes of the sixteenth 
century looked down upon the familiar commodities of the 
nineteenth. Mrs. Touchett inhabited an historic building in a 
narrow street whose very name recalled the strife of mediaeval 
factions ; and found compensation for the darkness of her front* 
age in the modicity of her rent and the brightness of a garden in 
which nature itself looked as archaic as the rugged architecture 
of the palace and which illumined the rooms that were in regular 
use. Isabel found that to live in such a place might be a source 
of happiness — almost of excitement. At first it had struck her 
as a sort of prison ; but very soon its 'prison-like quality became 
a merit, for she discovered that it contained other prisoners than 
the members of her aunt's household. The spirit of the past was 
shut up there, like a refugee from the outer world ; it lurked in 
lonely corners, and, at night, haunted even the rooms in which 
Mrs. Touchett diffused her matter-of-fact influence. Isabel used 
to hear vague echoes and strange reverberations ; she had a sense 
of the hovering of unseen figures, of the flitting of ghosts. Often 
she paused, listening, half-startled, half-disappointed, on the great 
cold stone staircase. 

Gilbert Osmond came to see Madame Merle, who presented 
him to the young lady seated almost out of sight at the other 



64 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

end of the room. Isabel, on this occasion, took little share in 
the conversation; she scarcely even smiled when the others 
turned to her appealingly ; but sat there as an impartial auditor 
of their brilliant discourse. Mrs. Touchett was not present, 
and these two had it their own way. They talked extremely 
wellj it struck Isabel almost as a dramatic entertainment, 
rehearsed in advance. Madame Merle referred everything to 
her, but the girl answered nothing, though she knew that this 
attitude would make Mr. Osmond think she was one of those 
dull people who bored him. It was the worse, too, that 
Madame Merle would have told him she was almost as much 
above the merely respectable average as he himself, and that 
she was putting her friend dreadfully in the wrong. But this 
was no matter, for once; even if more had depended on it, 
Isabel could not have made an attempt to shine. There was 
something in Mr. Osmond that arrested her and held her in 
suspense — made it seem more important that she should get an 
impression of him than that she should produce one herself. 
Besides, Isabel had little skill in producing an impression which 
she knew to be expected ; nothing could be more charming, in 
general, than to seem dazzling ; but she had a perverse unwill- 
ingness to perform by arrangement. Mr. Osmond, to do him 
justice, had a well-bred air of expecting nothing ; he was a quiet 
gentleman, with a colourless manner, who said elaborate things 
with a great deal of simplicity. Isabel, however, privately 
perceived that if he did not expect, he observed ; she was very 
sure he was sensitive. His face, his head were sensitive ; he was 
not handsome, but he was fine, as fine as one of the drawings in 
the long gallery above the bridge, at the Ufl&zi. Mr. Osmond 
was very delicate ; the tone of his voice alone would have proved 
it. It was the visitor's delicacy that made her abstain from 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. . 55 

interference. His talk was like the tinkling of glass, and if 
she had put out her finger she might have changed the pitch 
and spoiled the concert. Before he went he made an appeal 
to her. 

** Madame Merle says she will come up to my hill- top some 
day next week and drink tea in my garden. It would give me 
much pleasure if you would come with her. It's thought rather 
pretty — ^there's what they call a general view. My daughter, 
too, would be so glad— or rather, for she is too young to have 
strong emotions, I should be so glad — so very glad." And Mr. 
Osmond paused a moment, with a slight air of embarrassment, 
leaving his sentence unfinished. " I should be so happy if you 
could know my daughter," he went on, a moment afterwards. 

Isabel answered that she should be delighted to see Miss 
Osmond, and that if Madame Merle would show her the way to 
the hill-top she should be very grateful Upon this assurance 
the visitor took his leave ; after which Isabel fully expected that 
her friend would scold her for having been so stupid. But to 
her surprise, Madame Merle, who indeed never fell into the 
matter-of-course, said to her in a few moments — 

" You were charming, my dear ; you were just as one would 
have wished you. You are never disappointing." 

A rebuke might possibly have been irritating, though it is 
much more probable that Isabel would have taken it in good 
part ; but, strange to say, the words that Madame Merle actually 
used caused her the first feeling of displeasure she had known 
this lady to excite. "That is more than I intended," she 
answered, coldly. " I am under no obligation that I know of 
to charm Mr. Osmond." 

Madame Merle coloured a moment ; but we know it was not 
her habit to retract. " My dear child, I didn't speak for him, 



66 THE PORTEAIT OF A LADY. 

poor man ; I spoke for yourself. It is not of course a question 
as to his liking you ; it matters little whether he likes you or 
not ! But I thought you liked him." 

** I did/' said Isabel, honestly. " But I don't see what that 
matters, either." 

" Everything that concerns you matters to me," Madame 
Merle returned, with a sort of noble gentleness, " especially when 
at the same time another old friend is concerned." 

Whatever Isabel's obligations may have been to Mr. Osmond, 
it must be admitted that she found them sufficient to lead her to 
ask Ealph sundry questions about him. She thought Ealph's 
judgments cynical, but she flattered herself that she had learned 
to make allowance for that. 

" Do I know him 1 " said her cousin. " Oh, yes, I know 
him ; not well, but on the whole enough. I have never culti- 
vated his society, and he apparently has never found mine 
indispensable to his happiness. Who is he — ^what is he 1 He 
is a mysterious American, who has been living these twenty 
years, or more, in Italy. Why do I call him mysterious ? Only 
as a cover for my ignorance ; I don't know his antecedents, his 
family, his origin. For all I know, he may be a prince in 
disguise ; ho rather looks like one, by the way — like a prince 
who has abdicated in a fit of magnanimity, and has been in a 
state of disgust ever since. He used to live in Eome ; but of 
late years he has taken up his abode in Florence ; I remember 
hearing him say once that Eome has grown vulgar. He has a great 
dread of vulgarity ; that's his special line ; he hasn't any other 
that I know of. He lives on his income, which I suspect of not 
being vulgarly large. He's a poor gentleman — that's what he 
calls himself. He married young and lost his wife, and I 
believe he has a daughter. He also has a sister, who is married 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 67 

to some little Count or other, of these parts; I remember 
meeting her of old. She is nicer than he, I should think, but 
rather wicked. I remember there used to be some stories about 
her. I don't think I recommend you to know her. But why 
don't you ask Madame Merle about these people 1 She knows 
them all much better than I." 

" I ask you because I want your opinion as well as hers," 
said Isabel. 

" A fig for my opinion ! If you fall in love with Mr. Osmond, 
what will you care for that 1 " 

"Not much, probably. But meanwhile it has a certain 
importance. The more information one has about a person the 
better." 

" I don't agree to that. Wo know too much about people 
in these days; we hear too much. Our ears, our minds, our 
mouths, are stuffed with personalities. Don't mind anything 
that any one tells you about any one else. Judge every one and 
everything for yourself." 

" That's what I try to do," said Isabel ; " but when you do 
that people call you conceited." 

" You are not to mind them — that's precisely my argument ; 
not to mind what they say about yourself any more than what 
they say about your friend or your enemy." 

Isabel was silent a moment. " I think you are right ; but 
there are some things I can't help minding : for instance, when 
my friend is attacked, or when I myself am praised." 

"Of course you are always at liberty to judge the critic^ 
Judge people as critics, however," Ealph added, " and you will 
condemn them all ! " 

" I shall see Mr. Osmond for myself," said Isabel. " I have 
promised to pay him a visit." 



68 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" To pay him a visit 1 " 

" To go and see his view, his pictures, his daughter — I don't 
know exactly what. Madame Merle is to take me ; she tells 
me a great many ladies call upon him." 

"Ah, with Madame Merle you may go anywhere, de con- 
fiance," said Ealph. " She knows none but the best people." 

Isabel said no more about Mr. Osmond, but she presently 
remarked to her cousin that she was not satisfied with his tone 
about Madame Merle. "It seems to me that you insinuate 
things about her. I don't know what you mean, but if you 
have any grounds for disliking her, I think you should either 
mention them frankly or else say nothing at all." 

Kalph, however, resented this charge with more apparent 
earnestness than he commonly used. "I speak > of Madame 
Merle exactly as I speak to her : with an even exaggerated 
respect." 

" Exaggerated, precisely. That is what I complain of." 

" I do so because Madame Merle's merits are exaggerated." 

" By whom, pray 1 By me 1 K so, I do her a poor service." 

" No, no ; by herself." 

" Ah, I protest ! " Isabel cried with fervour. " If ever there 
was a woman who made small claims " 

"You put your finger on it," Ralph interrupted. "Her 
modesty is exaggerated. She has no business with small claims 
— she has a perfect right to make large ones." 

" Her merits are large, then. You contradict yourself." 

* Her merits are immense," said Ralph. " She is perfect ; she 
is the only woman I know who has but that one little fault." 

Isabel turned away with impatience. " I don't understand 
you ; you are too paradoxical for my plain mind." 

" Let me explain. When I say she exaggerates, I don't mean 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 69 

it in the vulgar sense — that she boasts, overstates, gives too fine 
an account of herself. I mean literally that she pushes the 
search for perfection too far — ^that her merits are in themselves 
overstrained. She is too good, too kind, too clever, too learned, 
too accomplished, too everything. She is too complete, in a 
word. I confess to you that she acts a little on my nerves, and 
that I feel about her a good deal as that intensely human 
Athenian felt about Aristides the Just." 

Isabel looked hard at her cousin ; but the mocking spirit, if 
it lurked in his words, failed on this occasion to peep from his 
eye. "Do you wish Madame Merle to be banished?" she 
inquired. 

" By no means. She is much too good company. I delight 
in Madame Merle," said Ealph Touchett, simply. 

* You are very odious, sir ! " Isabel exclaimed. And then 
she asked him if he knew anything that was not to the honour 
of her brilliant friend. 

" Nothing whatever. Don't you see that is just what I 
mean 1 Upon the character of every one else you may find some 
little black speck ; if I were to take half-an-hour to it, some 
day, I have no doubt I should be able to find one on yours. 
For my own, of course, I am spotted like a leopard. But on 
Madame Merle's nothing, nothing, nothing 1 " 

" That is just what I think ! " said Isabel, with a toss of her 
head. " That is why I like her so much." 

" She is a capital person for you to know. Since you wish 
to see the world you couldn't have a better guide." 

" I suppose you mean by that that she is worldly ? " 

" Worldly ? No," said Ralph, " she is the world itself ! " 

It had certainly not, as Isabel for the moment took it into 
her head to believe, been a refinement of malice in him to say 



60 THE POETRAIT OF A LADY. 



that he delighted in Madame Merle. Ralph Touchett took his 
entertainment wherever he could find it, and he would not have 
forgiven himself if he had not heen able to find a great deal in 
the society of a woman in whom the social virtues existed in 
polished perfection. There are deep-lying sympathies and 
antipathies ; and it may have been that in spite of the intel- 
lectual justice he rendered her, her absence from his mother's 
house would not have made life seem barren. But Ralph 
Touchett had learned to appreciate, and there could be no better 
field for such a talent than the table-talk of Madame Merle. He 
talked with her largely, treated her with conspicuous civility, 
occupied himself with her and let her alone, with an opportune- 
ness which she herself could not have surpassed. There were 
moments when he felt almost sorry for her ; and these, oddly 
enough, were the moments when his kindness was least demon- 
strative. He was sure that she had been richly ambitious, and 
that what she had visibly accomplished was far below her 
ambition. She had got herself into perfect training, but she had 
won none of the prizes. She was always plain Madame Merle, 
the widow of a Swiss n^gociant, with a small income and a 
large acquaintance, who stayed with people a great deal, and 
was universally liked. The contrast between this position and 
any one of some half-dozen others which he vividly imagined 
her to have had her eyes upon at various moments, had an 
element of the tragical. His mother thought he got on beauti- 
fully with their pliable guest ; to Mrs. Touchett's sense two 
people who dealt so largely in factitious theories of conduct 
would have much in common. He had given a great deal of 
consideration to Isabel's intimacy with Madame Merle — having 
long since made up his mind that he could not, without opposi- 
tion, keep his cousin"' to himself; and he regarded it on the 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 61 

whole with philosophic tolerance. He believed it would take 
care of itself ; it would not last for ever. Neither of these two 
superior persons knew the other as well as she supposed, and 
when each of them had made certain discoveries, there would be, 
if not a rupture, at least a relaxation. Meanwhile he was quite 
willing to admit that the conversation of the elder lady was an 
advantage to the younger, who had a great deal to learn, and 
would doubtless learn it better from Madame Merle than from 
some other instructors of the young. It was not probable that 
Isabel would be injured. 



62 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



V. 

It would certainly have been hard to see what injury could 
arise to her from the visit she presently paid to Mr. Osmond's 
hill-top. Nothing could have been more charming than this 
occasion — a soft afternoon in May, in the full maturity of the 
Italian spring. The two ladies drove out of the Eoman Gate, 
beneath the enormous blank superstructure which crowns the 
fine clear arch of that portal and makes it nakedly impressive, 
and wound between high-walled lanes, into which the wealth of 
blossoming orchards overdrooped and flung a perfume, until 
they reached the small superurban piazza, of crooked shape, of 
which the long brown wall of the villa occupied in part by Mr. 
Osmond, formed the principal, or at least the most imposing, 
side. Isabel went with her friend through a wide, high court, 
where a clear 8hado\v rested below, and a pair of light-arched 
galleries, facing each other above, caught the upper sunshine 
upon their slim columns and the flowering plants in which they 
were dressed. There was something rather severe about the 
place ; it looked somehow as if, once you were in, it would not 
be easy to get out. For Isabel, however, there was of course 
as yet no thought of getting out, but only of advancing. Mr. 
Osmond met her in the cold ante-chamber — it was cold even in 
the month of May — and ushered her, with her companion, into 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 63 

the apartment to which we have already been introduced. 
Madame Merle was in front, and while Isabel lingered a little, 
talking with Mr. Osmond, she went forward, familiarly, and 
greeted two persons who were seated in the drawing-room. 
One of these was little Pansy, on whom she bestowed a kiss ; 
the other was a lady whom Mr. Osmond presented to Isabel as 
his sister, the Countess Gemini. " And that is my little girl," 
he said, " who has just come out of a convent." 

Pansy had on a scanty white dress, and her fair hair was 
neatly arranged in a net; she wore a pair of slippers, tied, 
sandal-fashion, about her ankles. She made Isabel a little 
conventual curtsey, and then came to be kissed. The Countess 
Gemini simply nodded, without getting up; Isabel could see 
that she was a woman of fashion. She was thin and dark, and 
not at all pretty, having features that suggested some tropical 
bird — a long beak-like nose, a small, quickly-moving eye, and 
a mouth and chin that receded extremely. Her face, however, 
thanks to a very human and feminine expression, was by no 
means disagreeable, and, as regards her appearance, it was 
evident that she understood herself and made the most of her 
points. The soft brilliancy of her toilet had the look of 
shimmering plumage, and her attitudes were light and sudden, 
like those of a creature that perched upon twigs. She had a 
great deal of manner ; Isabel, who had never known any one 
with so much manner, immediately classified the Countess 
Gemini as the most affected of women. She remembered that 
Ealph had not recommended her as an acquaintance ; but she 
was ready to acknowledge that on a casual view the Countess 
presented no appearance of wickedness. Nothing could have 
been kinder or more innocent than her greeting to Isabel 

" You wUl believe that I am glad to see you when I tell you 



64 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

that it is only because I knew you were to be here that I came 
myself. I don't come and see my brother — I make him come 
and see me. This hill of his is impossible — I don't see what 
possesses him. Eeally, Osmond, you will be the ruin of my 
horses some day ; and if they receive an injury you will have to 
give me another pair. I heard them panting to-day ; I assure 
you I did. It is very disagreeable to hear one's horses panting 
when one is sitting in the carriage ; it sounds, too, as if they 
were not what they should be. But I have always had good 
horses; whatever else I may have lacked, I have always 
managed that. My husband doesn't know much, but I think 
he does know a horse. In general the ItaKans don't, but my 
husband goes in, according to his poor light, for everything English. 
My horses are English — so it is all the greater pity they should 
be ruined. I must tell you," she went on, directly addressing 
Isabel, " that Osmond doesn't often invite me ; I don't think he 
likes to have me. It was quite my own idea, coming to- 
day. I like to see new people, and I am sure you are very 
new. But don't sit there; that chair is not what it looks. 
There are some very good seats here, but there are also some 
horrora" 

These remarks were delivered with a variety of little jerks 
and glances, in a tone which, although it expressed a high 
degree of good-nature, was rather shrill than sweet. 

" I don't like to have you, my dear ? " said her brother. " I 
am sure you are invaluable." 

" I don't see any horrors anywhere," Isabel declared, looking 
about her. " Everything here seems to me very beautiful." 

" I have got a few good things," Mr. Osmond murmured ; 
"indeed I have nothing very bad. But I have not what I 
should have liked." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 65 

He stood there a little awkwardly, smiling and glancing 
about ; his manner was an odd mixture of the indifferent and 
the expressive. He seemed to intimate that nothing was of 
much consequence. Isabel made a rapid induction : perfect 
simplicity was not the badge of his family. Even the little girl 
from the convent, who, in her prim white dress, with her small 
submissive face and her hands locked before her, stood there as 
if she were about to partake of her first communion — even Mr. 
Osmond's diminutive daughter had a kind of finish which was 
not entirely artless. 

" You would have liked a few things from the Uflfizi and 
the Pitti — that's what you would have liked," said Madame 

4 

Merle. 

" Poor Osmond, with his old curtains and crucifixes ! " the 
Countess Gemini exclaimed; she appeared to call her brother 
only by his family-name. Her ejaculation had no particular 
object ; she smiled at Isabel as she made it, and looked at her 
from head to foot. 

Her brother had not heard her ; he seemed to be thinking 
what he could say to Isabel. " Won't you have some tea % — 
you must be very tired," he at last bethought himself of 
remarking. 

" No, indeed, I am not tired ; what have I done to tire me % " 
Isabel felt a certain need of being very direct, of pretending to 
nothing; there was something in the air, in her general 
impression of things — she could hardly have said what it was — 
that deprived her of all disposition to put herself forward. The 
place, the occasion, the combination of people, signified more 
than lay on the surface ; she would try to understand — she 
would not simply utter graceful platitudes. Poor Isabel was 
perhaps not aware that many women would have uttered 

VOL. II. F 



66 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

graceful platitudes to cover the working of their observation. 
It must be confessed that her pride was a trifle alarmed. A 
man whom she had heard spoken of in terms that excited 
interest, and who was evidently capable of distinguishing 
himself, had invited her, a young lady not lavish of her favours, 
to come to his house. Now that she had done so, the burden 
of the entertainment rested naturally upon himself. Isabel was 
not rendered less observant, and for the moment, I am afraid, 
she was not rendered more indulgent, by perceiving that 
Mr. Osmond carried his burden less complacently than might 
have been expected. " What a fool I was to have invited these 
women here ! " she could fancy his exclaiming to himself. 

" You will be tired when you go home, if he shows you all his 
bibelots and gives you a lecture on each," said the Countess Gemini. 

" I am not afraid of that ; but if I am tired, I shall at least 
have learned something." 

"Very little, I suspect. But my sister is dreadfully afraid 
of learning anything," said Mr. Osmond. 

*' Oh, I confess to that ; I don't want to know anything more 
— I know too much already. The more you know, the more 
unhappy you are." 

"You should not undervalue knowledge before Pansy, who 
has not finished her education," Madame Merle interposed, with 
a smile. 

'* Pansy will never know any harm," said the child's father. 
" Pansy is a little convent-flower." 

" Oh, the convents, the convents ! " cried the Countess, with 
a sharp laugh. " Speak to me of the convents. You may learn 
anything there ; I am a convent-flower myself. I don't pretend 
to be good, but the nuns do. Don't you see what I mean?" 
ahe went on, appealing to Isabel. 



THE POETRAIT OF A LADY. 67 

Isabel was not sure that she saw, and she answered that she 
was very bad at following arguments. The Countess then 
declared that she herself detested arguments, but that this was 
her brother's taste — he would always discuss. " For me," she 
said, *' one should like a thing or one shouldn't ; one can't like 
everything, of course. But one shouldn't attempt to reason it 
out — you never know where it may lead you. There are some 
very good feelings that may have bad reasons ; don't you know 1 
And then there are very bad feelings, sometimes, that have good 
reasons. Don't you see what I mean 1 I don't care anything 
about reasons, but I know what I like." 

"Ah, that's the great thing," said Isabel, smiling, but sus- 
pecting that her acquaintance with this lightly-flitting personage 
would not lead to intellectual repose. If the Countess objected 
to argument Isabel at this moment had as little taste for it, and 
she put out her hand to Pansy with a pleasant sense that such 
a gesture committed her to nothing that would admit of a diverg- 
ence of opinions. Gilbert Osmond apparently took a rather hope- 
less view of his sister's tone, and he turned the conversation to 
another topic. He presently sat down on the other side of his 
daughter, who had taken Isabel's hand for a moment ; but he 
ended by drawing her out of her chair, and making her stand 
between his knees, leaning against him while he passed his arm 
round her little waist. The child fixed her eyes on Isabel with 
a still, disinterested gaze, which seemed void of an intention, 
but conscious of an attraction. Mr. Osmond talked of many 
things ; Madame Merle had said he could be agreeable when he 
chose, and to-day, after a little, he appeared not only to have 
chosen, but | to have determined. Madame Merle and the 
Countess Gemini sat a little apart, conversing in the effortless 
manner of persons who knew each other well enough to take 

F 2 



68 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

their ease ; every now and then Isabel heard the Countess say- 
something extravagant. Mr. Osmond talked of Florence, of 
Italy, of the pleasure of living in that country, and of the abate- 
ments to such pleasure. There were both satisfactions and 
drawbacks ; the drawbacks were pretty numerous ; strangers 
were too apt to see Italy in rose-colour. On the whole it was 
better than other countries, if one was content to lead a quiet 
life and take things as they came. It was very dull sometimes, 
but there were advantages in living in the country which con- 
tained the most beauty. There were certain impressions that 
one could get only in Italy. There were others that one never 
got there, and one got some that were very bad. But from time 
to time one got a delightful one, which made up for everything. 
He was inclined to think that Italy had spoiled a great many 
people ; he was even fatuous enough to believe at times that he 
himself might have been a better man if he had spent less of 
his life there. It made people idle and dilettantish, and second- 
rate ; there was nothing tonic in an Italian life. One was out 
of the current ; one was not dans le mouvement, as the French 
said ; one was too far from Paris and London. " We are 
gloriously provincial, I assure you," said Mr. Osmond, " and I am 
perfectly aware that I myseK am as rusty as a key that has no 
lock to fit it. It polishes me up a little to talk with you — not 
that I venture to pretend I can turn that very complicated lock 
I suspect your intellect of being ! But you wiU be going away 
before I have seen you three times, and I shall perhaps never 
see you after that. That's what it is to live in a country that 
people come to. When they are disagreeable it is bad enough ; 
when they are agreeable it is still worse. As soon as you find 
you like them they are off again ! I have been deceived too 
often ; I have ceased to form attachments ; to permit myself to 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 69 

feel attractions. You mean to stay — to settle 1 That would be 
really comfortable. Ah yes, your aunt is a sort of guarantee ; I 
believe she may be depended upon. Oh, she's an old Florentine ; 
I mean literally an old one ; not a modern outsider. She is 
a contemporary of the Medici ; she must have been present at 
the burning of Savonarola, and I am not sure she didn't throw 
a handful of chips into the flame. Her face is very much like 
some faces in the early pictures ; little, dry, definite faces, that 
must have had a good deal of expression, but almost always the 
same one. Indeed, I can show you her portrait in a fresco of 
Ghirlandaio's. I hope you don't object to my speaking that 
way of your aunt, eh? I have an idea you don't. Perhaps 
you think that's even worse. I assure you there is no want of 
respect in it, to either of you. You know I'm a particular 
admirer of Mrs. Touchett." 

While Isabel's host exerted himself to entertain her in this 
somewhat confidential fashion, she looked occasionally at 
Madame Merle, who met her eyes with an inattentive smile in 
which, on this occasion, there was no infelicitous intimation 
that our heroine appeared to advantage. Madame Merle event- 
ually proposed to the Countess Gemini that they should go into 
the garden, and the Countess, rising and shaking out her soft 
plumage, began to rustle toward the door. 

" Poor Miss Archer ! " she exclaimed, surveying the other 
group with expressive compassion. "She has been brought 
quite into the family." 

" Miss Archer can certainly have nothing but sympathy for a 
family to which you belong," Mr. Osmond answered, with a 
laugh which, though it had something of a mocking ring, was 
not ill-natured. 

" I don't know what you mean by that ! I am sure she wiU 



70 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

see no harm in me "but what you tell her. I am better than he 
says, Miss Archer," the Countess went on. " I am only rather 
light. Is that all he has said % Ah then, you keep him in 
good humour. Has he opened on one of his favourite subjects 1 
I give you notice that there are two or three that he treats d 
fond. In that case you had better take off your bonnet.'* 

" I don't think I know what Mr. Osmond's favourite subjects 
are," said Isabel, who had risen to her feet. 

The Countess assumed, for an instant, an attitude of intense 
meditation; pressing one of her hands, with the finger-tips 
gathered together, to her forehead. 

" I'll teU you in a moment," she answered. " One is Machia- 
velli, the other is Yittoria Colonna, the next is Metastasio." 

" Ah, with me," said Madame Merle, passing her arm into the 
Countess Gemini's, as if to guide her course to the garden, " Mr. 
Osmond is never so historical." 

" Oh you," the Countess answered as they moved away, " you 
yourself *are MachiaveUi — you yourself are Yittoria Colonna ! " 

" "We shall hear next that poor Madame Merle is Metastasio ! " 
Gilbert Osmond murmured, with a little melancholy smile. 

Isabel had got up, on the assumption that they too were to go 
into the garden ; but Mr. Osmond stood there, with no apparent 
inclination to leave the room, with his hands in the pockets of 
his jacket, and his daughter, who had now locked her arm into 
one of his own, clinging to him and looking up, while her eyes 
moved from his own face to Isabel's. Isabel waited, with a 
certain unuttered contentedness, to have her movements directed ; 
she liked Mr. Osmond's talk, his company; she felt that she 
was being entertained. Through the open doors of the great 
room she saw Madame Merle and the Countess stroll across 
the deep grass of the garden ; then she turned, and her eyes 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 71 

wandered over the things that were scattered about her. The 
understanding had been that her host should show her his 
treasures; his pictures and cabinets all looked Hke treasures. 
Isabel, after a moment, went toward one of the pictures to see 
it better ; but just as she had done so Mr. Osborne said to her 
abruptly — 

"Miss Archer, what do you think of my sister 1" 

Isabel turned, with a good deal of surprise. 

" Ah, don't ask me that — I have seen your sister too little.*' 

" Yes, you have seen her very little ; but you must have 
observed that there is not a great deal of her to see. What do 
you think of our family tone 1 " Osmond went on, smiling. " I 
should like to know how it strikes a fresh, unprejudiced mind. 
I know what you are going to say — you have had too little 
observation of it. Of course this is only a glimpse. But just 
take notice, in future, if you have a chance. I sometimes 
think we have got into a rather bad way, living off here among 
things and people not our own, without responsibilities or 
attachments, with nothing to hold us together or keep us up ; 
marrying foreigners, forming artificial tastes, playing tricks with 
our natural mission. Let me add, though, that I say that much 
more for myself than for my sister. She's a very good woman 
— better than she seems. She is rather unhappy, and as she is 
not of a very serious disposition, she doesn't tend to show it 
tragically ; she shows it comically instead. >She has gotia nasty 
husband, though I am not sure she makes the best of him. Of 
course, however, a nasty husband is an awkward thing. Madame 
Merle gives her excellent advice, but it's a good deal like giving 
a child a dictionary to learn a language with. He can look out 
the words, but he can't put them together. My sister needs a 
grammar, but unfortunately she is not grammatical Excuse 



72 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

my troubling you with these details ; my sister was very right 
in saying that you have been taken into the family. Let me 
take down that picture ; you want more light." 

He took down the picture, carried it toward the window, 
related some curious facts about it. She looked at the other 
works of art, and he gave her such further information as might 
appear to be most acceptable to a young lady making a call on a 
summer afternoon. His pictures, his carvings and tapestries 
were interesting ; but after a while Isabel became conscious that 
the owner was more interesting stUl. He resembled no one she 
had ever seen ; most of the people she knew might be divided 
into groups of half-a-dozen specimens. There were one or two 
exceptions to this ; she could think, for instance, of no group 
that would contain her aunt Lydia. There were other people 
who were, relatively speaking, original — original, as one might 
say, by courtesy — such as Mr. Goodwood, as her cousin Ralph, 
as Henrietta Stackpole, as Lord Warburton, as Madame Merle. 
But in essentials, when one came to look at them, these 
individuals belonged to types which were already present to her 
mind. Her mind contained no class which offered a natural 
place to Mr. Osmond — ^he was a specimen apart. Isabel did 
not say all these things to herself at the time ; but she felt them, 
and afterwards they became distinct. For the moment she only 
said to herself that Mr. Osmond had the interest of rareness. 
It was not so much what he said and did, but rather what he 
withheld, that distinguished him; he indulged in no striking 
deflections from common usage; he was an original without 
being an eccentric. Isabel had never met a person of so fine 
a grain. The peculiarity was physical, to begin with, and it 
extended to his immaterial part His dense, delicate hair, his 
overdrawn, retouched features, his clear complexion, ripe with- 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 73 

out being coarse, the very evenness of the growth of his beard, 
and that light, smooth, slendemess of structure which made the 
movement of a single one of his fingers produce the effect of an 
expressive gesture — ^these personal points struck our observant 
young lady as the signs of an unusual sensibility. He was 
certainly fastidious and critical ; he was probably irritable. His 
sensibility had governed him — possibly governed him too much; 
it had made him impatient of vulgar troubles and had led hini 
to live by himself, in a serene, impersonal way, thinking about 
art and beauty and history. He had consulted his taste in 
everything — his taste alone, perhaps ; that was what made him 
so different- from every one else. Ralph had something of this 
same quality, this appearance of thinking that life was a matter 
of connoisseurship ; but in Ralph it was an anomaly, a kind 
of humorous excrescence, whereas in Mr. Osmond it was the 
key-note, and everything was in harmony with it. Isabel was 
certainly far from understanding him completely ; his meaning 
was not at all times obvious. It was hard to see what he 
meant, for instance, by saying that he was gloriously provincial 
— which was so exactly the opposite of what she had supposed. 
"Was it a harmless paradox, intended to puzzle her ] or was it 
the last refinement of high culture'? Isabel trusted that she 
should learn in time ; it would be very interesting to learn. If 
Mr. Osmond were provincial, pray what were the characteristics 
of the capital 1 Isabel could ask herself this question, in spite of 
having perceived that her host was a shy personage ; for such 
shyness as his — the shyness of ticklish nerves and fine perceptions 
— was perfectly consistent with the best breeding. Indeed, it 
was almost a proof of superior qualities. Mr. Osmond was not a 
man of easy assurance, who chatted and gossiped with the fluency 
of a superficial nature ; he was critical of himself as well as of 



74 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

others, and exacting a good deal of others (to think them agree- 
able), he probably took a rather ironical view of what he himself 
offered : a proof, into the bargain, that he was not grossly con- 
ceited. If he had not been shy, he would not have made that 
gradual, subtle, successful effort to overcome his shyness, to which 
Isabel felt that she owed both what pleased and what puzzled her 
in his conversation to-day. His suddenly asking her what she 
thought of the Countess of Gemini — that was doubtless a proof 
that he was interested in her feelings ; it could scarcely be as a 
help to knowledge of his own sister. That he should be so 
interested showed an inquiring mind ; but it was a little singu- 
lar that he should sacrifice his fraternal feeling to his curiosity. 
This was the most eccentric thing he had done. 

There were two other rooms, beyond the one in which she 
had been received, equally full of picturesque objects, and in 
these apartments Isabel spent a quarter of an hour. Every- 
thing was very curious and valuable, and Mr. Osmond continued 
to be the kindest of ciceroni, as he led her from one fine piece 
to another, still holding his little girl by the hand. His kind- 
ness almost surprised our young lady, who wondered why he 
should take so much trouble for her ; and she was oppressed at 
last with the accumulation of beauty and knowledge to which 
she found herself introduced. There was enough for the 
present ; she had ceased to attend to what he said ; she listened 
to him with attentive eyes, but she was not thinking of what 
he told her. He probably thought she was cleverer than she 
was; Madame Merle would have told him so; which was a 
pity, because in the end he would be sure to find out, and then 
perhaps even her real cleverness would not reconcile him to his 
mistake. A part of Isabel's fatigue came from the effort to 
appear as intelligent as she believed Madame Merle had described 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 75 

her, and from the fear (very unusual with her) of exposmg — 
not her ignorance ; for that she cared comparatively little — but 
her possible grossness of perception. It would have annoyed 
her to express a liking for something which her host, in his 
superior enlightenment, would think she ought not to like ; or 
to pass by something at which the truly initiated mind would 
arrest itself. She was very careful, therefore, as to what she 
said, as to what she noticed or failed to notice — more careful 
than she had ever been before. 

They came back into the first of the rooms, where the tea had 
been served ; but as the two other ladies were still on the terrace, 
and as Isabel had not yet been made acquainted with the view, 
which constituted the paramount distinction of the place, Mr. 
Osmond directed her steps into the garden without more delay. 
Madame Merle and the Countess had had chairs brought out, and 
as the afternoon was lovely, the Countess proposed they should 
take their tea in the open air. Pansy, therefore, was sent to bid 
the servant bring out the tray. The sun had got low, the golden 
light took a deeper tone, and on the mountains and the plain 
that stretched beneath them, the masses of purple shadow seemed 
to glow as richly as the places that were stiU exposed. The 
scene had an extraordinary charm. The air was almost solemnly 
stni, and the large expanse of the landscape, with its gardenlike 
culture and nobleness of outline, its teeming valley and deli- 
cately-fretted hills, its peculiarly human-looking touches of 
habitation, lay there in splendid harmony and classic grace. 

" You seem so well pleased that I think you can be trusted to 
come back," Mr. Osmond said, as he led his companion to one of 
the angles of the terrace. 

" I shall certainly come back," Isabel answered, " in spite of 
what you say about its being bad to live in Italy. What was 



76 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

that you said about one's natural mission ? I wonder if I 
should forsake my natural mission if I were to settle in 
Florence." 

" A woman's natural mission is to be where she is most 
appreciated." 

" The point is to find out where that is." 

" Very true — a woman often wastes a great deal of time in the 
inquiry. People ought to make it very plain to her." 

" Such a matter would have to be made very plain to me/' 
said Isabel, smiling. 

" I am glad, at any rate, to hear you talk of settling. Madame 
Merle had given me an idea that you were of a rather roving 
disposition. I thought she spoke of your having some plan of 
going round the world." 

" I am rather ashamed of my plans ; I make a new one every 
day." 

" I don't see why you should be ashamed ; it's the greatest of 
pleasures." 

" It seems frivolous, I think," said Isabel. " One ought to 
choose something very deliberately, and be faithful to that." 

" By that rule, then, I have not been frivolous." 

" Have you never made plans 1 " 

" Yes, I made one years ago, and I am acting on it to-day." 

" It must have been a very pleasant one," said Isabel. 

" It was very simple. It was to be as quiet as possible." 

" As quiet 1 " the girl repeated. 

" Not to worry — ^not to strive nor struggle. To resign myself* 
To be content with a little." He uttered these sentences slowly, 
with little pauses between, and his intelligent eyes were fixed 
upon Isabel's with the conscious look of a man who has brought 
himself to confess something. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 77 

" Do you call that simple *? " Isabel asked, with a gentle laugh. 

" Yes, because it's negative." 

" Has your life been negative 1 " 

" Call it affirmative if you like. Only it has affirmed my 
indifference. Mind you, not my natural indifference — I had 
none. But my studied, my wilful renunciation." 

Isabel scarcely understood him ; it seemed a question whether 
he were joking or not. Why should a man who struck her as 
having a great fund of reserve suddenly bring himself to be so 
confidential 1 This was his affair, however, and his confidences 
were interesting. " I don't see why you should have renounced," 
she said in a moment. 

" Because I could do nothing. I had no prospects, I was 
poor, and I was not a man of genius. I had no talents even ; I 
took my measure early in life. I was simply the most fastidious 
young gentleman living. There were two or three people in 
the world I envied — the Emperor of Russia, for instance, and 
the Sultan of Turkey! There were even moments when I 
envied the Pope of Rome — for the consideration he enjoys. I 
should have been delighted to be considered to that extent ; 
but since I couldn't be, I didn't care for anything less, and I 
made up my mind not to go in for honours. A gentleman can 
always consider himself, and fortunately, I was a gentleman. I 
could do nothing in Italy — I couldn't even be an Italian patriot. 
To do that, I should have had to go out of the country; and I 
was too fond of it to leave it. So I have passed a great many 
years here, on that quiet plan I spoke of. I have not been at all 
unhappy. I don't mean to say I have cared for nothing ; but the 
things I have cared for have been definite — limited. The events 
of my life have been absolutely unperceived by any one save 
myself ; getting an old silver crucifix at a bargain (I have never 



78 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

bought anything dear, of course), or discovering, as I once did, a 
sketch by Correggio on a panel daubed over by some inspired 
idiot ! " 

This would have been rather a dry account of Mr. Osmond's 
career if Isabel had fully believed it ; but her imagination sup- 
plied the human element which she was sure had not been 
wanting. His life had been mingled with other lives more than 
he admitted ; of course she could not expect him to enter into 
this. For the present she abstained from provoking further 
revelations; to intimate that he had not told her everything 
would be more familiar and less considerate than she now desired 
to be. He had certainly told her quite enough. It was her 
present inclination, however, to express considerable sympathy 
for the success with which he had preserved his independence. 
" That's a very pleasant life," she said, " to renounce everything 
but Correggio ! " 

" Oh, I have been very happy ; don't imagine me to suggest 
for a moment that I have not It's one's own fault if one is not 
happy." 

" Have you lived here always *? " 

" No, not always. I lived a long time at Naples, and many 
years in Eome. But I have been here a good while. Perhaps I 
shall have to change, however ; to do something else. I have 
no longer myself to think of. My daughter is growing up, and 
it is very possible she may not care so much for the Correggios 
and crucifixes as L I shall have to do what is best for her." 

" Yes, do that," said Isabel " She is such a dear little 
girl." 

" Ah," cried Gilbert Osmond, with feeling, " she is a little 
saint of heaven 1 She is my great happiness ! " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 79 



YI. 

"While this sufficiently intimate colloquy (prolonged for some 
time after we cease to follow it) was going on, Madame Merle 
and her companion, breaking a silence of some duration, had 
begun to exchange remarks. They were sitting in an attitude 
of unexpressed expectancy; an attitude especially marked ou 
the part of the Countess Gemini, who, being of a more nervous 
temperament than Madame Merle, practised with less success 
the art of disguising impatience. What these ladies were 
waiting for would not have been apparent, and was perhaps not 
very definite to their own minds. Madame Merle waited for 
Osmond to release their young friend from her tSte-d-tete, and 
the Countess waited because Madame Merle did. The Countess, 
moreover, by waiting, found the time ripe for saying something 
discordant ; a necessity of which she had been conscious for the 
last twenty minutes. Her brother wandered with Isabel to the 
end of the garden, and she followed the pair for a while with 
her eyes. 

" My dear," she then observed to Madame Merle, ** you will 
excuse me if I don't congratulate you ! " 

"Very willingly; for I don't in the least know why you 
should." 

" Haven't you a little plan that you think rather well of 1 " 
And the Countess nodded towards the retreating couple. 



80 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Madame Merle's eyes took the same direction ; then she 
looked serenely at her neighbour. " You know I never under- 
stand you very well," she answered, smiling. ' 

" No one can understand better than you when you wish. I 
see that, just now, you don't wish to." 

" You say things to me that no one else does," said Madame 
Merle, gravely, but without bitterness. 

" You mean things you don't like 1 Doesn't Osmond some- 
times say such things 1 " 

** What your brother says has a point." 

" Yes, a very sharp one sometimes. If you mean that I am 
not so clever as he, you must not think I shall suffer from your 
saying it. But it will be much better that you should under- 
stand me." 

" Why so ] " asked Madame Merle ; " what difference will it 
make?" 

" If I don't approve of your plan, you ought to know 
it in order to appreciate the danger of my interferiug with 
it." 

Madame Merle looked as if she were ready to admit that 
there might be something in this; but in a moment she said 
quietly — " You think me more calculating than I am." 

"It's not your calculating that I think ill of; it's your 
calculating wrong. You have done so in this case." 

"You must have made extensive calculations yourself to 
discover it." 

" No, I have not had time for that. I have seen the girl but 
this once," said the Countess, " and the conviction has suddenly 
come to me. I like her very much." 

" So do I," Madame Merle declared. 

" You have a strange way of showing it." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 81 

"Surely — I have given her the advantage of making your 
acquaintance." 

" That, indeed," cried the Countess, with a laugh, " is perhaps 
the best thing that could happen to her ! " 

Madame Merle said nothing for some time. The Countess's 
manner was impertinent, but she did not suffer this to dis- 
compose her ; and with her eyes upon the violet slope of Monte 
Morello she gave herself up to reflection. 

"My dear lady," she said at last, "I advise you not to 
agitate yourself. The matter you allude to concerns three 
persons much stronger of purpose than yourself." 

"Three persons] You and Osmond, of course. But is Miss 
Archer also very strong of purpose 1 " 

" Quite as much so as we." 

" Ah then," said the Countess radiantly, " if I convince her 
it's her interest to resist you, she will do so successfully 1 " 

"Resist usi Why do you express yourself so coarsely? 
She is not to be subjected to force." 

" I am not sure of that. You are capable of anything, you 
and Osmond. I don't mean Osmond by himself, and I don't 
mean you by yourself. But together you are dangerous — like 
some chemical combination." 

" You had better leave us alone, then," said Madame Merle, 
smiling. 

" I don't mean to touch you — but I shall talk to that girL" 

"My poor Amy," Madame Merle murmured, "I don't see 
what has got into your head." 

" I take an interest in her — that is what has got into my 
head. I like her." 

Madame Merle hesitated a moment. "I don't think she 
likes you." 

VOL. II. Q 



82 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



The Countess's bright little eyes expanded, and her face was 
set in a grimace. "Ah, you are dangerous," she cried, "even 
by yourself ! " 

" If you want her to like you, don't abuse your brother to 
her," said Madame Merle. 

"I don't suppose you pretend she has fallen in love with 
him — in two interviews." 

Madame Merle looked a moment at Isabel and at the master 
of the house. He was leaning against the parapet, facing her, 
with his arms folded ; and she, at present, though she had her 
face turned to the opposite prospect, was evidently not scruti- 
nising it. As Madame Merle watched her she lowered her 
eyes ; she was listening, possibly with a certain embarrassment, 
while she pressed the point of her parasol into the path. 
Madame Merle rose from her chair. " Yes, I think so ! " she 
said. 

The shabby footboy, summoned by Pansy, had come out 
with a small table, which he placed upon the grass, and then 
had gone back and fetched the tea-tray ; after which he again 
disappeared, to return with a couple of chairs. Pansy had 
watched these proceedings with the deepest interest, standing 
with her small hands folded together upon the front of her 
scanty frock ; but she had not presumed to offer assistance to 
the servant. When the tea-table had been arranged, however, 
she gently approached her aunt. 

" Do you think papa would object to my making the tea 1 " 
The Countess looked at her with a deliberately critical gaze, 
and without answering her question. "My poor niece," she 
said, " is that your best frock 1 " 

"Ah no," Pansy answered, "it's just a little toilet for 



common occasions." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 83 

" Do you call it a common occasion when I come to see you? 
— to say nothing of Madame Merle and the pretty lady yonder/* 

Pansy reflected a moment, looking gravely from one of the 
persons mentioned to the other. Then her face broke into its 
perfect smile. "I have a pretty dress, but even that one is 
very simple. "Why should I expose it beside your beautiful 
thrngs?" 

" Because it's the prettiest you have ; for me you must always 
wear the prettiest. Please put it on the next time. It seems 
to me they don't dress you so well as they might." 

The child stroked down her antiquated skirt, sparingly. " It's 
a good little dress to make tea — don't you think 1 Do you not 
believe papa would allow me ? " 

** Impossible for me to say, my child," said the Countess. 
"For me, your father's ideas are unfathomable. Madame 
Merle understands them better; ask her." 

Madame Merle smiled with her usual geniality. "It's a 
weighty question — let me think. It seems to me it would 
please your father to see a careful little daughter making his 
tea. It's the proper duty of the daughter of the house — when 
she grows up." 

" So it seems to me, Madame Merle ! " Pansy cried. " You 
shall see how well I will make it. A spoonful for each." And 
she began to busy herself at the table. 

" Two spoonfuls for me," said the Countess, who, with 
Madame Merle, remained for some moments watching her. 
"Listen to me, Pansy," the Countess resumed at last. "I 
should like to know what you think of your visitor."* 

" Ah, she is not mine — she is papa's," said Pansy. 

"Miss Archer came to see you as well," Madame Merle 
remarked. 

O 2 



84 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" I am very happy to hear that. She has heen very polite to me." 

" Do you like her, then ] " the Countess asked. 

" She is charmmg— charming," said Pansy, m her little neat, 
conversational tone. ". She pleases me exceedingly," 

" And you think she pleases your father 1 " 

"Ah, really. Countess," murmured Madame Merle, dissua- 
sively. " Gro and call them to tea," she went on, to the child. 

" You will see if they don't like it ! " Pansy declared ; and 
went off to summon the others, who were still lingering at the 
end of the terrace. 

" If Miss Archer is to become her mother it is surely interest- 
ing to know whether the child likes her," said the Countess. 

" If your brother marries again it won't be for Pansy's sake,'' 
Madame Merle replied. " She will soon be sixteen, and after 
that she will begin to need a husband rather than a stepmother." 

" And will you provide the husband as well 1 " 

" I shall certainly take an interest in her marrying welL I 
imagine you will -do the same." 

" Indeed I shan't ! " cried the Countess. " Why should I, 
of all women, set such a price on a husband 1 " 

" You didn't marry well ; that's what I am speaking of. 
When I say a husband, I mean a good one." 

" There are no good ones. Osmond won't be a good one." 

Madame Merle closed her eyes a moment. " You are irritated 
just now ; I don't know why," she said, presently. " I don't 
think you will really object either to your brother, or to your 
niece's, marrying, when the time comes for them to do so ; and 
as regards Pansy, I am confident that we shall some day have the 
pleasure of looking for a husband for her together. Your large 
acquaintance will be a great help." 

" Yes, I am irritated," the Countess answered. " You often 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 85 

irritate me. Your own coolness is fabulous ; you are a 
strange woman." 

"It is much better that we should always act together," 
Madame Merle went on. 

'* Do you mean that as a threat? " asked the Countess, rising. 

Madame Merle shook her head, with a smile of sadness. " No 
indeed, you have not my coolness 1 " 

Isabel and Mr. Osmond were now coming toward them, and 
Isabel had taken Pansy by the hand. 

" Do you pretend to believe he would make her happy 1 " the 
Countess demanded. 

" If he should marry Miss Archer I suppose he would behave 
like a gentleman." 

The Countess jerked herself into a succession of a;ttitudes. 
"Do you mean as most gentlemen behave? That would be 
much to be thankful for 1 Of course Osmond's a gentleman ; 
his own sister needn't be reminded of that. But does he think 
he can marry any girl he happens to pick out ] Osmond's a 
gentleman, of course ; but I must say I have never, no never, 
seen any one of Osmond's pretensions ! What they are all based 
upon is more than I can say. I am his own sister ; I might be 
supposed to know. Who is he, if you please 1 What has he 
ever done ] If there had been anything particularly grand in 
his origiu — if he were made of some superior clay — I suppose I 
should have got some inkling of it. If there had been any great 
honours or splendours in the family, I should certainly have 
made the most of them ; they would have been quite in my 
line. But there is nothing, nothing, nothing. One's parents 
were charming people of course ; but so were yours, I have no 
doubt. Every one is a charming person, now-a-days. Even 
I am a charming person; don't laugh, it haa UteraUy been said. 



86 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

As for Osmond, he has always appeared to believe that he is 
descended from the gods." 

" You may say what you please," said Madame Merle, who 
had Hstened to this quick outbreak none the less attentively, we 
may believe, because her eye wandered away from the speaker, 
and her hands busied themselves with adjusting the knots of 
ribbon on her dress. " You Osmonds are a fine race — your 
blood must flow from some very pure source. Your brother, 
like an intelligent man, has had the conviction of it, if he has 
not had the proofs. You are modest about it, but you yourself 
are extremely distinguished. What do you say about your 
niece 1 The child's a little duchess. Nevertheless," Madame 
Merle added, " it will not be an easy matter for Osmond to 
marry Miss Archer. But he can try." 

" I hope she will refuse him. It will take him down a little." 

" We must not forget that he is one of the cleverest of men.*' 

" I have heard you say that before ; but I haven't yet dis- 
covered what he has done." 

" What he has done 1 He has done nothing that has had to 
be undone. And he has known how to wait." 

" To wait for Miss Archer's money 1 How much of it is 
there?" 

"That's not what I mean," said Madame Merle. "Miss 
Archer has seventy thousand pounds." 

" Well, it is a pity she is so nice," the Countess declared. 
" To be sacrificed, any girl would do. She needn't be superior." 

'" If she were not superior, your brother would never look at 
her. He must have the best." 

" Yes," rejoined the Countess, as they went forward a little to 
meet the others, " he is very hard to please. That makes me 
fear for her happiness ! " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 87 



VII. 

Gilbert Osmond came to see Isabel again ; that is, he came 
to the Palazzo Crescentini. He had other friends there as well ; 
and to Mrs. Touchett and Madame Merle he was always impar- 
tially civil ; but the former of these ladies noted the fact that in 
the course of a fortnight he called five times, and compared it 
with another fact that she found no difficulty in remembering. 
Two visits a year had hitherto constituted his regular tribute to 
Mrs. Touchett's charms, and she had never observed that he 
selected for such visits those moments, of almost periodical 
recurrence, when Madame Merle was under her roof. It was 
not for Madame Merle that he came ; these two were old friends, 
and he never put himself out for her. He was not fond of 
Ralph — Ralph had told her so— and it was not supposable that 
Mr. Osmond had suddenly taken a fancy to her son. Ralph was 
imperturbable-Kalph had a kind of looae-fitting urbanity that 
wrapped him about like an ill-made overcoat, but of which he 
never divested himself ; he thought Mr. Osmond very good com- 
pany, and would have been willing at any time to take the hos- 
pitable view of his idiosyncracies. But he did not flatter him- 
self that the desire to repair a past injustice was the motive of 
their visitor's calls ; he read the situation more clearly. Isabel 
was the attraction, and in all conscience a sufficient one. Osmond 



88 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

was a critic, a student of . the exquisite, and it was natural lie 
should admire an admirable person. So when his mother said 
to him that it was very plain what Mr. Osmond was thinking of, 
Ralph replied that he was quite of her opinion. Mrs. Touchett 
had always liked Mr. Osmond ; she thought him so much of a 
gentleman. As he had never been an importunate visitor he 
had had no chance to be offensive, and he was recommended to 
Mrs. Touchett by his appearance of being as well able to do 
without her as she was to do without him — a quality that always 
excited her esteem. It gave her no satisfaction, however, to 
think that he had taken it into his head to marry her niece. 
Such an alliance, on Isabel's part, would have an air of almost 
morbid perversity. Mrs. Touchett easily remembered that the 
girl had refused an English peer ; and that a young lady for 
whom Lord "Warburton had not been up to the . mark should 
content herself with an obscure American dilettante, a middle- 
aged widower with an overgrown daughter and an income of 
nothing — this answered to nothing in Mrs. Touchett's conception 
of success. She took, it will be observed, not the sentimental| 
but the political, view of matrimony — a view which has always 
had much to recommend it. " I trust she won't have the folly 
to listen to him," she said to her son ; to which Ralph replied 
that Isabel's listening was one thing and her answering quite 
another. He knew that she had listened to others, but that she 
had made them listen to her in return ; and he found much 
entertainment in the idea that, in these few months that he had 
known her, he should see a third suitor at her gate. She had 
wanted to see life, and fortune was serving her to her taste ; a 
succession of gentlemen going down on their knees to her was 
by itself a respectable chapter of experience. Ralph looked 
forward to a fourth and a fifth soupirant ; he had no conviction 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 89 

that she would stop at a third. She would keep the gate ajar 
and open a parley ; she would certainly not allow number three 
to come in. He expressed this view, somewhat after this 
fashion, to his mother, who looked at him as if he had been 
dancing a jig. He had such a fanciful, pictorial way of saying 
things that he might as well address her in the deaf-mute's 
alphabet. 

" I don't think I know what you mean," she said ; " you use 
too many metaphors ; I could never understand allegories. The 
two words in the language I most respect are Yes and No. If 
Isabel wants to marry Mr. Osmond, she will do so in spite of all 
your similes. Let her alone to find a favourable comparison for 
anything she undertakes. I know very little about the young 
man in America ; I don't think she spends much of her time in 
thinking of him, and I suspect he has got tired of waiting for 
her. There is nothing in life to prevent her marrying Mr. 
Osmond, if she only looks at him in a certain way. That is all 
very well ; no one approves more than I of one's pleasing one's 
self. But she takes her pleasure in such odd things ; she is 
capable of marrying Mr. Osmond for his opinions. She wants 
to be disinterested : aa if she were the only person who is in 
danger of not being so ! "Will he be so disinterested when he 
has the spending of her money ] That was her idea before your 
father's death, and it has acquired new charms for her since. 
She ought to marry some one of whose disinterestedness she 
should be sure, herself; and there would be no such proof of 
that as his having a fortune of his own." 

" My dear mother, I am not afraid," Ralph answered. " She 
is making fools of us all. She will please herself, of course ; but 
she will do so by studying human nature and retaining her 
liberty. She has started on an exploring expedition, and I don't 



90 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

think she will change her course, at the outset, at a signal from 
Gilbert Osmond. She may have slackened speed for an hour, 
but before we know it she will be steaming away again. Excuse 
another metaphor." 

Mrs. Touchett excused it perhaps, but she was not so much 
reassured as to withhold from Madame Merle the expression 
of her fears. **You who know everything,'* she said, "you 
must know this : whether that man is making love to my 
niece." 

Madame Merle opened her expressive eyes, and with a bril- 
liant smile — ** Heaven help us," she exclaimed, " that's an 
idea ! " 

" Has it never occurred to you 1 " 

"You make me feel like a fool — but I confess it hasn't. I 
wonder," added Madame Merle, " whether it has occurred to 
her." 

" I think I will ask her," said Mrs. Touchett. 

Madame Merle reflected a moment. " Don't put it into her 
head. The thing would be to ask Mr. Osmond." 

"I can't do that," said Mrs. Touchett; "it's none of my 
business." 

" I will ask him myself," Madame Merle declared, bravely. 

" It's none of yours, either." 

" That's precisely why I can afford to ask him ; it is so much 
less my business than any one's else, that in me the question will 
not seem to him embarrassing." 

" Pray let me know on the first day, then," said Mrs. Touchett. 
** If I can't speak to him, at least I can speak to her." 

" Don't^be too quick with her ; don't inflame her imagination." 

" I never did anything to any one's imagination. But I am 
always sure she will do something I don't like." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. [91 

" You wouldn't like this," Madame Merle observed, without 
the point of interrogation. 

" Why should I, pray 1 Mr. Osmond has nothing to oflfer." 

Again Madame Merle was silent, while her thoughtful smile 
drew up her mouth more than usual toward the left comer* 
" Let us distinguish. Gilbert Osmond is certainly not the first 
comer. He is a man who under favourable circumstances might 
very well make an impression. He has made an impression, to 
my knowledge, more than once." 

" Don't tell me about his love-affairs ; they are nothing to 
me ! " Mrs. Touchett cried. " What you say is precisely why I 
wish he would cease his visits. He has nothing in the world 
that I know of but a dozen or two of early masters and a grown- 
up daughter." 

" The early masters are worth a good deal of money," said 
Madame Merle, " and the daughter is a very young and very 
harmless person." 

" In other words, she is an insipid school-girl. Is that what 
you mean ] Having no fortune, she can't hope to marry, as they 
marry here ; so that Isabel will have to furnish her either with a 
maintenance or with a dowry." 

" Isabel probably would not object to being kind to her. I 
think she likes the child." 

" Another reason for Mr. Osmond stopping at home ! Other- 
wise, a week hence, we shall have Isabel arriving at the convic- 
tion that her mission .in life is to prove that a stepmother may 
sacrifice herself — and that, to prove it, she must first become one." 

" She would make a charming stepmother," said Madame 
Merle, smiling ; " but I quite agree with you that she had better 
not decide upon her mission too hastily. Changing one's mission 
is often awkward I I will investigate and report to you." 



92 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

All this went on quite over Isabers head ; she had no sus- 
picion that her relations with Mr. Osmond were being discussed. 
Madame Merle had said nothing to put her on her guard ; she 
alluded no more pointedly to Mr. Osmond than to the other 
gentlemen of Florence, native and foreign, who came in consider- 
able numbers to pay their respects to Miss Archer's aunt. Isabel 
thought him very pleasant ; she liked to think of him. She had 
carried away an image from her visit to his hill-top which her 
subsequent knowledge of him did nothing to efface and which 
happened td take her fancy particularly — the image of a quiet, 
clever, sensitive, distinguished man, strolling on a moss-grown 
terrace above the sweet Val d'Amo, and holding by the hand a 
little girl whose sympathetic docility gave a new aspect to child- 
hood. The picture was not brilliant, but she liked its lowness 
of tone, and the atmosphere of summer twilight that pervaded 
it. It seemed to tell a story — a story of the sort that touched 
her most easily ; to speak of a serious choice, a choice between 
things of a shallow, and things of a deep, interest ; of a lonely, 
studious life in a lovely land ; of an old sorrow that sometimes 
ached to-day ; a feeling of pride that was perhaps exaggerated, 
but that had an element of nobleness ; a care for beauty and 
perfection so natural and so cultivated together, that it had been 
the main occupation of a lifetime of which the arid places were 
watered with the sweet sense of a quaint, half-anxious, half- 
helpless fatherhood. At the Palazzo Crescentini Mr. Osmond's 
manner remained the same ; shy at first, and fuU of the effort 
(visible only to a sympathetic eye) to overcome this disadvan- 
tage ; an effort which usually resulted in a great deal of easy, 
lively, very positive, rather aggressive, and always effective, talk. 
Mr. Osmond's talk was not injured by the indication of an eager- 
ness to shine ; Isabel found no difficulty in believing that a 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 93 

person was sincere who had so many of the signs of strong con- 
viction — ^as, for instance, an explicit and graceful appreciation of 
anything that might be said on his own side, said perhaps by 
Miss Archer in particular. What continued to please this young 
lady Vas his extraordinary subtlety. There was such a fine 
intellectual intention in what he said, and the movement of his 
wit was like that of a quick-flashing blade. One day he brought 
his little daughter with him, and Isabel was delighted to renew 
acquaintance with the child, who, as she presented her forehead 
to be kissed by every member of the circle, reminded her vividly 
of an ingenue in a French play. Isabel had never seen a young 
girl of this pattern ; American girls were very different — different 
too were the daughters of England. This young lady was so 
neat, so complete in her manner ; and yet in character, as one 
could see, so innocent and infantine. She sat on the sofa, by 
Isabel ; she wore a small grenadine mantle and a pair of the 
useful gloves that Madame Merle had given her — little grey 
gloves, with a single button. She was like a sheet of blank 
paper — the idiQ?! jeune fille of foreign fiction. Isabel hoped that 
so fair and smooth a page would be covered with an edifying 
text. 

The Countess Gremini also came to call upon her, but the 
Countess was quite another affair. She was by no means a blank 
sheet ; she had been written over in a variety of hands, and Mrs. 
Touchett, who felt by no means honoured by her visit, declared 
that a number of unmistakable blots were to be seen upon her 
surface. The Countess Gemini was indeed the occasion of a 
slight discussion between the mistress of the house and the 
visitor from Eome, in which Madame Merle (who was not such 
a fool as to irritate people by always agreeing with them) 
^vailed herself humorously of that large license of dissent which 



94 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

her hostess permitted as freely as she practised it. Mrs. Touchett 
had pronounced it a piece of audacity that the Countess Gemini 
should have presented herself at this time of day at the door of 
a house in which she was esteemed so little as she must long 
have known herself to be at the Palazzo Crescentini Isabel 
had been made acquainted with the estimate which prevailed 
under this roof ; it represented Mr. Osmond's sister as a kind 
of flighty reprobate. She had been married by her mother — a 
heartless featherhead like herself, with an appreciation of foreign 
titles which the daughter, to do her justice, had probably by this 
time thrown off — to an Italian nobleman who had perhaps given 
her some excuse for attempting to quench the consciousness of 
neglect. The Countess, however, had consoled herself too well, 
and it was notorious in Florence that she had consoled others 
also. Mrs. Touchett had never consented to receive her, though 
the Countess had made overtures of old. Florence was not an 
austere city ; but, as Mrs. Touchett said, she had to draw the 
line somewhere. 

Madame Merle defended the unhappy lady with a great deal 
of zeal and wit. She could not see why Mrs. Touchett should 
make a scapegoat of that poor Countess, who had really done no 
harm, who had only done good in the wrong way. One must 
certainly draw the line, but while one was about it one should 
draw it straight; it was a very crooked chalk-mark that would 
exclude the Countess GreminL In that case Mrs. Touchett had 
better shut up her house ; this perhaps would be the best course 
so long as she remained in Florence. One must be fair and not 
make arbitrary differences; the Countess had doubtless been 
imprudent ; she had not been so clever as other women. She 
was a good creature, not clever at all ; but since when had that 
been a ground of exclusion from the best society 1 It was a long 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 95 

time since one had heard anything about her, and there could be 
no better proof of her having renounced the error of her ways 
than her desire to become a member of Mrs. Touchett^s circle, 
Isabel could contribute nothing to this interesting dispute, not 
even a patient attention; she contented herself with having 
given a friendly welcome to the Countess Gemini, who, whatever 
her defects, had at least the merit of being Mr. Osmond's sister. 
As she liked the brother, Isabel thought it proper to try and like 
the sister ; in spite of the growing perplexity of things she was 
still perfectly capable of these rather primitive sequences of feel- 
ing. She had not received the happiest impression of the Countess 
on meeting her at the villa, but she was thankful for an oppor- 
tunity to repair this accident. Had not Mr. Osmond declared 
that she was a good woman 1 To have proceeded from Gilbert 
Osmond, this was rather a rough statement ; but Madame Merle 
bestowed upon it a certain improving polish. She told Isabel 
more about the poor Countess than Mr. Osmond had done, and 
related the history of her marriage and its consequences. The 
Count was a member of an ancient Tuscan family, but so poor 
that he had been glad to accept Amy Osmond, in spite of her 
being no beauty, with the modest dowry her mother was able to 
offer — a sum about equivalent to that which had already formed 
her brother's share of their patrimony. Count Gemini, since then, 
however, had inherited money, and now they were well enough 
off, as Italians went, though Amy was horribly extravagant. 
The Count was a low-lived brute ; he had given his wife every 
excuse. She had no children ; she had lost three within a year 
of their birth. Her mother, who had pretensions to ** culture," 
wrote descriptive poems, and corresponded on Italian subjects 
with the English weekly journals — ^her mother had died three 
years after the Countess's marriage, the father having died long 



96 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

before. One could see this in Gilbert Osmond, Madame Merle 
thought — see that he had been brought up by a woman ; though, 
to do him justice, one would suppose it had been by a more 
sensible woman than the American Corinne, as Mrs. Osmond 
liked to be called. She had brought her children to Italy after 
her husband's death, and Mrs. Touchett remembered her during 
the years that followed her arrival She thought her a horrible 
snob 3 but this was an irregularity of judgment on Mrs. Touchett's 
part, for she, like Mrs. Osmond, approved of political marriages. 
The Countess was very good company, and not such a fool as 
she seemed; one got on with her perfectly if one observed a 
single simple condition — that of not believing a word she said. 
Madame Merle had always made the best of her for her brother's 
sake; he always appreciated any kindness shown to Amy, 
because (if it had to be confessed for him) he was rather ashamed 
of her. Naturally, he couldn't like her style, her loudness, her 
want of repose. She displeased him ; she acted on his nerves ; 
she was not Ms sort of woman. What was his sort of woman 1 
Oh, the opposite of the Countess, a woman who should always 
speak the truth. Isabel was unable to estimate the number of 
fibs her visitor had told her ; the Countess indeed had given her 
an impression of rather silly sincerity. She had talked almost 
exclusively about herseK; how much she should like to know 
Miss Archer ; how thankful she should be for a real friend ; how 
nasty the people in Florence were ; how tired she was of the 
place; how much she should like to live somewhere else — in 
Paris, or London, or St. Petersburg ; how impossible it was to 
get anything nice to wear in Italy, except a little old lace ; how 
dear the world was growing everywhere ; what a life of suflfering 
and privation she had led. Madame Merle listened with interest 
to Isabel's account of her conversation with this plaintive butter- 



THE PORTRAIT OF A lADY. 97 

fly; but she had not needed it to feel exempt from anxiety. 
On the whole, she was not afraid of the Countess, and she 
could afford to do what was altogether best — ^not to appear so. 

Isabel had another visitor, whom it was not, even behind her 
back, so easy a matter to patronise. Henrietta Stackpole, who 
had left Paris after Mrs. Touchett's departure for San Eemo 
and had worked her way down, as she said, through the cities 
of i^orth Italy, arrived in Florence about the middle of May. 
Madame Merle surveyed her with a single glance, comprehended 
her, and, after a moment's concentrated reflection, determined 
to like her. She determined, indeed, to delight in her. To 
like her was impossible ; but the intenser sentiment might be 
managed. Madame Merle managed it beautifully, and Isabel 
felt that in foreseeing this event she had done justice to her 
friend's breadth of mind. Henrietta's arrival had been announced 
by Mr. Bantling, who, coming down from Nice while she was 
at Venice, and expecting to find her in Florence, which she had 
not yet reached, came to the Palazzo Crescentini to express his 
disappointment. Henrietta's own advent occurred two days 
later, and produced in Mr. Bantling an emotion amply accounted 
for by the fact that he had not seen her since the termination 
of the episode at Versailles. The humorous view of his situation 
was generally taken, but it was openly expressed only by Ealph 
Touchett, who, in the privacy of his own apartment, when 
Bantling smoked a cigar there, indulged in Heaven knows what 
genial pleasantries on the subject of the incisive Miss Stackpole 
and her British ally. This gentleman took the joke in perfectly 
good part, and artlessly confessed that he regarded the affair as 
an intellectual flirtation. He liked Miss .Stackpole extremely; 
he thought she had a wonderful head on her shoulders, and 
found great comfort in the society of a woman who was not 

VOL. II. H 



98 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

perpetually thinking about wliat would he said and how it 
would look. Miss Stackpole never cared how it looked, and if 
she didn't care, pray why should he 1 But his curiosity had 
been roused ; he wanted awfully to see whether she ever would 
care. He was prepared to go as far as she — ^he did not see why 
he should stop first. 

Henrietta showed no signs of stopping at all. Her prospects, 
as we know, had brightened upon her leaving England, and she 
was now in the full enjoyment of her copious resources. She 
had indeed been obliged to sacrifice her hopes with regard to the 
inner life ; the social question, on the continent, bristled with 
difl&culties even more numerous than those she had encountered 
in England. But on the continent there was the outer life, 
which was palpable and visible at every turn, and more easily 
convertible to literary uses than the customs of those opaque 
islanders. Out of doors, in foreign lands, as Miss Stackpole 
ingeniously remarked, one seemed to see the right side of the 
tapestry ; out of doors, in England, one seemed to see the wrong 
side, which gave one no notion of the figure. It is mortifying 
to be obliged to confess it, but Henrietta, despairing of more 
occult things, was now paying much attention to the outer life. 
She had been studying it for two months at Venice, from which 
city she sent to the Interviewer a conscientious account of the 
gondolas, the Piazza, the Bridge of Sighs, the pigeons and the 
young boatman who chanted Tasso. The Interviewer was 
perhaps disappointed, but Henrietta was at least seeing Europe. 
Her present purpose was to get down to Eome before the malaria 
should come on — she apparently supposed that it began on a 
fixed day ; and with this design she was to spend at present but 
few days in Florence. Mr. Bantling was to go with her to 
Borne, and she pointed out to Isabel that as he had been there 



I 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 99 

before, as he was a military man, and as he had had a classical 
education — he was brought up at Eton, where they study nothing 
but Latin, said Miss Stackpole — he would be a most useful 
companion in the city of the Caesars. At this juncture Ealph 
had the happy idea of proposing to Isabel that she also, under 
his own escort, should make a pilgrimage to Eome. She 
expected to pass a portion of the next winter there — that was 
very well ; but meantime there was no harm in surveying the 
field. There were ten days left of the beautiful month of May 
— the most precious month of all to the true Eome-lover. Isabel 
would become a Eome-lover; that was a foregone conclusion. 
She was provided with a well-tested companion of her own sex, 
whose society, thanks to the fact that she had other calls upon 
her sympathy, would probably not be oppressive. Madame 
Merle would remain with Mrs. Touchett ; she had left Eome 
for the summer and would not care to return. This lady pro- 
fessed herself delighted to be left at peace in Florence ; she had 
locked up her apartment and sent her cook home to Palestrina. 
She urged Isabel, however, to assent to Ealph's proposal, and 
assured her that a good introduction to Eome was not a thing 
to be despised. Isabel, in truth, needed noi urging, and the 
party of four arranged its little journey. Mrs. Touchett, on 
this occasion, had resigned herself to the absence of a duenngi ; 
we have seen that she now inclined to the belief that her niece 
should stand alone. 

Isabel saw Gilbert Osmond before she started, and mentioned 
her intention to him. 

" I should like to be in Eome with you," he said ; " I should 
like to see you there." 

She hesitated a moment. 

" You might come, then." 

H 2 



100 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" But you'll have a lot of people with you." 

" Ah," Isabel admitted, " of course I shall not he alone." 

For a moment he said nothing more. 

"You'll like it," he went on, at last. "They have spoiled 
it, hut you'U like it." 

" Ought I to dislike it, because it's spoiled ? " she asked. 

" No, I think not. It has been spoiled so often. If I were 
to go, what should I do with my little girl ] " 

" Can't you leave her at the villa 1 " 

"I don't know that I like that — though there is a very 
good old woman who looks after her. I can't aflford a 
governess." 

" Bring her with you, then," said Isabel, smiling. 

Mr. Osmond looked grave. 

" She has been in Eome all winter, at her convent ; and she 
is too young to make journeys of pleasure." 

" You don't like bringing her forward 1 " Isabel suggested. 

" No, I think young girls should be kept out of the world." 

" I was brought up on a different system." 

" You 1 Oh, with you it succeeded, because you — you were 
exceptional." 

" I don't see why," said Isabel, who, however, was not sure 
there was not some truth in the speech. 

Mr. Osmond did not explain; he simply went on. "If I 
thought it would make her resemble you to join a social group 
in Rome, I would take her there to-morrow." 

" Don't make her resemble me," said Isabel ; " keep her like 
herself." 

" I might send her to my sister," Mr. Osmond suggested. He 
had almost the air of asking advice ; he seemed to like to talk 
over his domestic matters with Isabel 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 101 

" Yes," said the girl ; " I think that would not do much 
towards making her resemble me ! " 

After she had left Florence, Gilbert Osmond met Madame 
Merle at the Countess Gemini's. There v^re other people 
present; the Countess's drawing-room was usually well filled, 
and the talk had been general ; but after a while Osmond left 
his place and came and sat on an ottoman half-behind, half- 
beside, Madame Merle's chair. 

" She wants me to go to Eome with her," he announced, in 
a low voice. 

"To go with her?" 

" To be there while she is there. She proposed it." 

" I suppose you mean that you proposed it, and that she 
assented." 

" Of course I gave her a chance. But she is encouraging — 
she is very encouraging." 

" I am glad to hear it — but don't cry victory too soon. Of 
course you will go to Eome." 

" Ah," said Osmond, " it makes one work, this idea of 
yours!" 

" Don't pretend you don't enjoy it — you are very ungrateful. 
You have not been so well occupied these many years." 

" The way you take it is beautiful," said Osmond. " I ought 
to be grateful for that." 

" Not too much so, however," Madame Merle answered. She 
talked with her usual smile,- leaning back in her chair, and 
looking round the room. " You have made a very good im- 
pression, and I have seen for myself that you have received one. 
You have not come to Mrs. Touchett's seven times to oblige 



me." 



« 



The girl is not disagreeable," Osmond quietly remarked. 



102 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Madame Merle dropped her eye on him a moment, during 
which her lips closed with a certain firmness. 

" Is that all you can find to say about that fine creature 1 " 

"All? Isn't it enough] Of how many people have you 
heard me say more 1 " 

She made no answer to this, but still presented her convers- 
ational smile to the room. 

" You're unfathomable," she murmured at last. " I am 
frightened at the abyss into which I shall have dropped her ! " 

Osmond gave a laugh. 

" You can't draw back — you have gone too far." 

" Very good ; but you must do the rest yourself." 

" I shall do it," said Osmond. 

Madame Merle remained silent, and he changed his place 
again; but when she rose to go he also took leave. Mrs. 
Touchett's victoria was awaiting her in the court, and after he 
had helped Madame Merle into it he stood there detaining her. 

" You are very indiscreet," she said, rather wearily ; " you 
should not have moved when I did." 

He had taken off his hat; he passed his hand over his 
forehead, 

" I always forget ; I am out of the habit." 

" You are quite unfathomable," she repeated, glancing up at 
the windows of the house ; a modern structure in the new part 
of the town. 

He paid no heed to this remark, but said to Madame Merle, 
with a considerable appearance of earnestness — 

" She is really very charming ; I have scarcely known any 
one more graceful" 

" I like to hear you say that. The better you like her, the 
better for me." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 103 

" I like her very much. She is all you said, and into the 
bargain she is capable of great devotion. She has only one 
fault." 

" What is that 1 " 

" She has too many ideas." 

" I warned you she was clever." 

" Fortunately they are very bad ones," said Osmond. 

" Why is that fortunate 1 " 

" Damey if they must be sacrificed ! " 

Madame Merle leaned back, looking straight before her ; then 
she spoke to the coachman. But Osmond again detained her. 

" If I go to Eome, what shall I do with Pansy ? " 

*' I will go and see her," said Madame Merle. 



104 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



YIII. 

I SHALL not undertake to give an account of Isabel's impres- 
sions of Eome, to analyse her feelings as she trod the ancient 
pavement of the Forum, or to number her pulsations as she 
crossed the threshold of St. Peter's. It is enough to say that 
her perception of the endless interest of the place was such as 
might have been expected in a young woman of her intelligence 
and culture. She had always been fond of history, and here 
was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of the 
sunshine. She had an imagination that kindled at the mention 
of great deeds, and wherever she turned some great deed had 
been acted. These things excited her, but she was quietly 
excited. It seemed to her companions that she spoke less than 
usual, and Kalph Touchett, when he appeared to be looking 
listlessly and awkwardly over her head, was really dropping an 
eye of observation upon her. To her own knowledge she was 
very happy ; she would even have been willing to believe that 
these were to be on the whole the happiest hours of her life. 
The sense of the mighty human past was heavy upon her, but 
it was interfused in the strangest, suddenest, most capricious 
way, with the fresh, cool breath of the future. Her feelings 
were so mingled that she scarcely knew whither any of them 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 105 

would lead her, and she went about in a kind of repressed 
ecstasy of contemplation, seeing often in the things she looked 
at a greal deal more than was there, and yet not seeing many of 
the items enumerated in " Murray." Eome, as Ralph said, was in 
capital condition. The herd of re-echoing tourists had departed, 
and most of the solemn places had relapsed into solemnity. 
The sky was a blaze of blue, and the plash of the fountains, 
in their mossy niches, had lost its chill and doubled its music. 
On the corners of the warm, bright streets one stumbled upon 
bundles of flowers. 

Our friends had gone one afternoon — ^it was the third of their 
stay — to look at the latest excavations in the Forum; these 
labours having been for some time previous largely extended. 
They had gone down from the modem street to the level of the 
Sacred Way, along which they wandered with a reverence of 
step which was not the same on the part of each. Henrietta 
Stackpole was struck with the fact that ancient Rome had been 
paved a good deal like New York, and even found an analogy 
between the deep chariot-ruts which are traceable in the antique 
street, and the iron grooves which mark the course of the 
American horse-car. The sun had begun to sink, the air was 
filled with a golden haze, and the long shadows of broken 
column and formless pedestal were thrown across the field of 
ruin. Henrietta wandered away with Mr. Bantling, in whose 
Latin reminiscences she was apparently much engrossed, and 
Ralph addressed such elucidations as he was prepared to offer, 
to the attentive ear of our heroine. One of the humble 
archaeologists who hover about the place had put himself at the 
disposal of the two, and repeated his lesson with a fluency which 
the decline of the season had done nothing to impair. A process 
of digging was going on in a remote corner of the Forum, and he 



106 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

presently remarked that if it should please the dgnori to go and 
watch it a little, they might see something interesting. The 
proposal commended itself more to Ealph than to Isabel, who 
was weary with much wandering; so that she charged her 
companion to satisfy his curiosity while she patiently awaited 
his return. The hour and the place were much to her taste, 
and she should enjoy being alone. Ralph accordingly went off 
with the cicerone, while Isabel sat down on a prostrate column, 
near the foundations of the Capitol. She desired a quarter of 
an hour's solitude, but she was not long to enjoy it. Keen as 
was her interest in the rugged relics of the Roman past that lay 
scattered around her, and in which the corrosion of centuries 
had still left so much of individual life, her thoughts, after 
resting a while on these things, had wandered, by a concaten- 
ation of stages it might require some subtlety to trace, to regions 
and objects more contemporaneous. From the Roman past to 
Isabel Archer's future was a long stride, but her imagination 
had taken it in a single flight, and now hovered in slow circles 
over the nearer and richer field. She was so absorbed in her 
thoughts, as she bent her eyes upon a row of cracked but not 
dislocated slabs covering the ground at her feet, that she had 
not heard the sound of approaching footsteps before a shadow 
was thrown across the line of her vision. She looked up and 
saw a gentleman — ^a gentleman who was not Ralph come back 
to say that the excavations were a bore. This personage was 
startled as she was startled; he stood there, smiling a little, 
blushing a*good deal, and raising his hat. 

" Lord Warburton ! " Isabel exclaimed, getting up. 

" I had no idea it was you," he said. " I turned that comer 
and came upon you." 

Isabel looked about her. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 107 

" I am alone, but my companions have just left me. My 
cousin is gone to look at the digging over there." 

"Ah yes; I see." And Lord Warburton's eyes wandered 
vaguely in the direction Isabel had indicated. He stood firmly 
before her ; he had stopped smiling ; he folded his arms with a 
kind of deliberation. " Don't let me disturb you," .he went on, 
looking at her dejected pillar. " I am afraid you are tired." 

"Yes, I am rather tired." She hesitated a moment, and 
then she sat down. " But don't let me interrupt you," she 
added. 

" Oh dear, I am quite alone, I have nothing on earth to do. 
I had no idea you were in Rome. I have just come from the 
East. I am only passing through." 

"You have been making a long journey," said Isabel, who 
had learned from Ealph that Lord Warburton was absent from 
England. 

" Yes, I came abroad for six months — soon after I saw you 
last. I have been in Turkey and Asia Minor ; I came the other 
day from Athens." He spoke with visible embarrassment ; this 
unexpected meeting caused him an emotion he was unable to 
conceal. He looked at Isabel a moment, and then he said, 
abruptly — " Do you wish me to leave you, or will you let me 
stay a little?" 

She looked up at him, gently. " I don't wish you to leave 
me. Lord Warburton; I am very glad to see you." 

" Thank you for saying that. May I sit down ? " 

The fluted shaft on which Isabel had taken her seat would 
have afforded a resting-place to several persons, and there was 
plenty of room even for a highly-developed Englishman. This 
fine specimen of that great class seated himself near our young 
lady, and^in the course of five minutes he had asked her several 



108 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

questions, taken rather at random, and of which, as he asked 
some of them twice over, he apparently did not always heed the 
answer; had given her, too, some information about himself 
which was not wasted upon her calmer feminine sense. Lord 
Warburton, though he tried hard to seem easy, was agitated ; 
he repeated more than once that he had not expected to meet 
her, and it was evident that the encounter touched him in a 
way that would have made preparation advisable. He had 
abrupt alternations of gaiety and gravity ; he appeared at one 
moment to seek his neighbour's eye and at the next to avoid 
it. He was splendidly sunburnt ; even his multitudinous beard 
seemed to have been burnished by the fire of Asia. He was 
dressed in the loose-fitting, heterogeneous garments in which the 
English traveller in foreign lands is wont to consult his comfort 
and affirm his nationality; and with his clear grey eye, his 
bronzed complexion, fresh beneath its brownness, his manly 
figure, his modest manner, and his general air of being a gentle- 
man and an explorer, he was such a representative of the 
British race as need not in any clime have been disavowed by 
those who have a kindness for it. Isabel noted these things, 
and was glad she had always liked Lord Warburton. He was 
evidently as likeable as before, and the tone of his voice, which 
she had formerly thought delightful, was as good as an assurance 
that he would never change for the worse. They talked about 
the matters that were naturally in order; her uncle's death, 
Ralph's state of health, the way she had passed her winter, her 
visit to Rome, her return to Florence, her plans for the summer, 
the hotel she was staying at ; and then Lord Warburton's own 
adventures, movements, intentions, impressions and present 
domicile. At last there was a silence, and she knew what he 
was thinking o£ His eyes were fixed on the ground; but at 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 109 

last he raised them and said gravely — **I have written to you 
several times." 

" Written to me ? I have never got your letters." 

" I never sent them. I burned them up." 

" Ah," said Isabel with a laugh, " it was better that you 
should do that than I ! " 

" I thought you wouldn't care about them," he went on, with 
a simplicity that might have touched her. " It seemed to me 
that after all I had no right to trouble you with letters." 

" I should have been very glad to have news of you. You 
know that I hoped that — that — " Isabel stopped ; it seemed to 
her there would be a certain flatness in the utterance of her 
thought 

" I know what you are going to say. You hoped we should 
always remain good friends." This formula, as Lord Warburton 
uttered it, was certainly flat enough ; but then he was interested 
in making it appear so. 

Isabel found herself reduced simply to saying — " Please don't 
talk of all that;" a speech which hardly seemed to her an 
improvement on the other. 

" It's a small consolation to allow me ! " Lord Warburton 
exclaimed, with force. 

" I can't pretend to console you," said the girl, who, as she 
sat there, found it good to think that she had given him the 
answer that had satisfied him so little six months before. He 
was pleasant, he was powerful, he was gallant, there was no 
better man than he. But her answer remained. 

" It's very well you don't try to console me ; it would not be 
, in your power," she heard him say, through the medium of her 
quickened reflections. 

" I hoped we should meet again, because I had no fear you 



110 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



would attempt to make me feel I had wroDged you. But when 
you do that — the pain is greater than the pleasure." And 
Isabel got up, looking for her companions. 

** I don't want to make you feel that ; of course I can't say 
that. I only just want you to know one or two things, in 
fairness to myself as it were. I won't return to the subject 
again. I felt very strongly what I expressed to you last year ; 
I couldn't think of anything else. I tried to forget — energetic- 
ally, systematically. I tried to take an interest in some one else. 
I tell you this because I want you to know I did my duty. I 
didn't succeed. It was for the same purpose I went abroad — as 
far away as possible. They say travelling distracts the mind ; 
but it didn't distract mine. I have thought of you perpetually, 
ever since I last saw you. I am exactly the same. I love you 
just as much, and everything I said to you then is just as true. 
However, I don't mean to trouble you now ; it's only for a 
moment. I may add that when I came upon you a moment 
since, without the smallest idea of seeing you, I was in the very 
act of wishing I knew where you were." 

He had recovered his self-control, as I say, and while he spoke 
it became complete. He spoke plainly and simply, in a low 
tone of voice, in a matter-of-fact way. There might have been 
something impressive, even to a woman of less imagination than 
the one he addressed, in hearing this brilliant, brave-looking 
gentleman express himself so modestly and reasonably. 

** I have often thought of you. Lord Warburton," Isabel 
answered. "You may be sure I shall always do that." And 
then she added, with a smile — " There is no harm in that, on 
either side." 

They walked along together, and she asked kindly about his 
sisters and requested him to let them know she had done so. He 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. Ill 

said nothing more about his own feelings, "but returned to those 
more objective topics they had already touched upon. Presently 
he asked her when she was to leave Eome, and on her mention- 
ing the limit of her stay, declared he was glad it was still so 
distant. 

" Why do you say that, if you yourself are only passing 
through ] " she inquired, with some anxiety. 

" Ah, when I said I was passing through, I didn't mean that 
one would treat Eome as if it were Clapham Junction. To pass 
through Rome is to stop a week or two." 

" Say frankly that you mean to stay as long as I do ! " 
Lord. Warburton looked at her a moment, with an uncomfort- 
able smile. " You won't like that. You are afraid you will see 
too much of me." 

" It doesn't matter what I like. I certainly can't expect you 
to leave this delightful place on my account. But I confess I 
am afraid of you." 

" Afraid I will begin again 1 I promise to be very careful." 
They had gradually stopped, and they stood a moment face to 
face. " Poor Lord Warburton ! " said Isabel, with a melancholy 
smile. 

" Poor Lord Warburton, indeed ! But I will be careful." 
" You may be unhappy, but you shall not make me so. That 
I can't allow." 

" If I believed I could make you unhappy, I think I should 
try it." At this she walked in advance, and he also proceeded. 
" I will never say a word to displease you," he promised, very 
gently. 

" Yery good. If you do, our friendship's at an end." 
" Perhaps some day — ^after a while — you will give me leave," 
he suggested. 



112 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Give you leave — to make me unhappy 1 " 

He hesitated. " To tell you again — " But he checked him- 
self. " I will be silent," he said ; " silent always." 

Ralph Touchett had heen joined, in his visit to the excavation, 
hy Miss Stackpole and her attendant, and these three now 
emerged from among the mounds of earth and stone collected 
round the aperture, and came into sight of Isabel and her com- 
panion. Ralph Touchett gave signs of greeting to Lord War- 
burton, and Henrietta exclaimed in a high voice, " Gracious, 
there's that lord ! " Ralph and his friend met each other with 
undemonstrative cordiality, and Miss Stackpole rested her large 
intellectual gaze upon the sunburnt traveller. 

" I don't suppose you remember me, sir," she soon remarked. 

" Indeed I do remember you," said Lord Warburton. " I 
asked you to come and see me, and you never came." 

"I don't go everywhere I am asked," Miss Stackpole 
answered, coldly. 

" Ah well, I won't ask you again," said the master of Lock- 
leigh, good-humouredly. 

" If you do I will go ; so be sure ! " 

Lord Warburton, for all his good-humour, seemed sure 
enough. Mr. Bantling had stood by, without claiming a recog- 
nition, but he now took occasion to nod to his lordship, who 
answered him with a ffiendly " Oh, you here, Bantling 1 " and a 
hand-shake. 

" Well," said Henrietta, " I didn't know you knew him ! " 

" I guess you don't know every one I know," Mr. Bantling 
rejoined, facetiously. 

** I thought that when an Englishman knew a lord he always 
told you." 

" Ah, I am afraid Bantling was ashamed of me," said Lord 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 113 

Warburton, laughing. Isabel was glad to hear him laugh ; she 
gave a little sigh of relief as they took their way homeward. 

The next day was Sunday ; she spent her morning writing 
two long letters — one to her sister Lily, the other to Madame 
Merle ; but in neither of these epistles did she mention the fact 
that a rejected suitor had threatened her with another appeal. 
Of a Sunday afternoon all good Romans (and the best Romans 
are often the northern barbarians) follow the custom of going to 
hear vespers at St. Peter's ; and it had been agreed among our 
friends that they would drive together to the great church. 
After lunch, an hour before the carriage came, Lord Warburton 
presented himself at the H6tel de Paris and paid a visit to the 
two ladies, Ralph Touchett and Mr. Bantling having gone out 
together. The visitor seemed to have wished to give Isabel an 
example of his intention to keep the promise he had made her 
the evening before ; he was both discreet and frank ; he made 
not even a tacit appeal, but left it for her to judge what a mere 
good friend he could be. He talked about his travels, about 
Persia, about Turkey, and when Miss Stackpole asked him 
whether it would " pay " for her to visit those countries, assured 
her that they offered a great field to female enterprise. Isabel 
did him justice, but she wondered what his purpose was, and 
what he expected to gain even by behaving heroically. If he 
expected to melt her by showing what a good fellow he was, he 
might spare himself the trouble. She knew already he was a good 
fellow, and nothing he could do would add to this conviction. 
Moreover, his being in Rome at all made her vaguely uneasy. 
^Nevertheless, when on bringing his call to a close, he said that 
he too should be at St. Peter's and should look out for Isabel 
and her friends, she was obliged to reply that it would be a 
pleasure to see him again. 

VOL. II. I 



114 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

In the church, as she strolled over its tesselated acres, he was 
the first person she encountered. She had not been one of the 
superior tourists who are " disappointed " in St. Peter's and find 
it smaller than its fame ; the first time she passed beneath the 
huge leathern curtain that strains and bangs at the entrance — 
the first time she found herself beneath the far-arching dome 
and saw the light drizzle down through the air thickened with 
incense and with the reflections of marble and gilt, of mosaic 
and bronze, her conception of greatness received an extension. 
After this it never lacked space to soar. She gazed and won- 
dered, like a child or a peasant, and paid her silent tribute to 
visible grandeur. Lord Warburton walked beside her and talked 
of Saint Sophia of Constantinople ; she was afraid that he would 
end by calling attention to his exemplary conduct. The service 
had not yet begun, but at St. Peter's there is much to observe, 
and as there is something almost profane in the vastness of the 
place, which seems meant as much for physical as for spiritual 
exercise, the different figures and groups, the mingled worship- 
pers and spectators, may follow their various intentions without 
mutual scandaL In that splendid immensity individual indis- 
cretion carries but a short distance. Isabel and her companions , 
however, were guilty of none ; for though Henrietta was obliged 
to declare that Michael Angelo's dome suffered by comparison 
with that of the Capitol -at Washington, she addressed her pro- 
test chiefly to Mr. Bantling's ear, and reserved it, in its more 
accentuated form, for the columns of the Interviewer, Isabel 
made the circuit of the church with Lord Warburton, and as 
they drew near the choir on the left of the entrance the voices 
of the Pope's singers were borne towards them over the heads 
of the large number of persons clustered outside the doors. 
They paused a while on the skirts of this crowd, composed in 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 116 

equal measure of Eoman cockneys and inquisitiye strangers, and 
while they stood there the sacred concert went forward. Ealph, 
with Henrietta and Mr. Bantling, was apparently within, where 
Isabel, above the heads of the dense group in front of her, saw 
the afternoon light, silvered by clouds of incense that seemed to 
mingle with the splendid chant, sloping through the embossed 
recesses of high windows. After a while the singing stopped, 
and then Lord Warburton seemed disposed to turn away again. 
Isabel for a moment did the same ; whereupon she found herself 
confronted with Gilbert Osmond, who appeared to have been 
standing at a short distance behind her. He now approached, 
with a formal salutation. 

" So you decided to come 1 " she said, putting out her hand. 

'* Yes, I came last night, and called this$ afternoon at your 
hotel They told me you had come here, and I looked about 
for you." 

" The others are inside," said Isabel. 

" I didn't come for the others," Gilbert Osmond murmured, 
smiling. 

She turned away; Lord Warburton was looking at them; 
perhaps he had heard this. Suddenly she remembered that it 
was just what he had said to her the morning he came to Grar- 
dencourt to ask her to marry him. Mr. Osmond's words had 
brought the colour to her cheek, and this reminiscence had not 
the effect of dispelling it. Isabel sought refuge from her slight 
agitation in mentioning to each gentleman the name of the other, 
and fortunately at this moment Mr. Bantling made his way out 
of the choir, cleaving the crowd with British valour, and followed 
by Miss Stackpole and Kalph Touchett. I say fortunately, but 
this is perhaps a superficial view of the matter ; for on perceiv- 
ing the gentleman from Florence, Ealph Touchett exhibited 

I 2 



116 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

symptoms of surprise which might not perhaps have seemed 
flattering to Mr. Osmond. It must be added, however, that 
these manifestations were momentary, and Ralph was presently 
able to say to his cousin, with due jocularity, that she would 
soon have all her friends about her. His greeting to Mr. Osmond 
was apparently frank ; that is, the two men shook hands and 
looked at each other. Miss Stackpole had met the new-comer 
in Florence, but she had already found occasion to say to Isabel 
that she liked him no better than her other admirers — than Mr. 
Touchett, Lord Warburton, and little Mr. Rosier in Paris. " I 
don't know what it is in you," she had been pleased to remark, 
" but for a nice girl you do attract the most unpleasant people. 
Mr. Goodwood is the only one I have any respect for, and he's 
just the one you don't appreciate." 

" What's your opinion of St. Peter's 1 " Mr. Osmond asked of 
Isabel 

" It's very large and very bright," said the girl. 

" It's too large ; it makes one feel like an atom." 

" Is not that the right way to feel — ^in a church ? " Isabel 
asked, with a faint but interested smile. 

" I suppose it's the right way to feel everywhere, when one w 
nobody. But I like it in a church as little as anywhere else." 

" You ought indeed to be a Pope 1 " Isabel exclaimed, remem- 
bering something he had said to her in Florence. 

" Ah, I should have enjoyed that ! " said Gilbert Osmond. 

Lord Warburton meanwhile had joined Ralph Touchett, and 
the two strolled away together. 

" Who is the gentleman speaking to Miss Archer] " his lord- 
ship inquired. 

" His name is Gilbert Osmond — ^he lives in Florence," Ralph 
said. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 117 

" What is he besides ] " 

" Nothing at all. Oh yes, he is an American ; hut one forgets 
that ; he is so little of one." 

" Has he known Miss Archer long 1 " 

" No, about a fortnight." 

" Does she like him ] " 

" Yes, I think she does." 

" Is he a good fellow ] " 

Kalph hesitated a moment. " No, he's not," he said, at last. 

" Why then does she like him ] " pursued Lord Warburton, 
with noble naivete. 

" Because she's a woman." 

Lord Warburton was silent a moment. "There are other 
men who are good fellows," he presently said, " and them — and 
them " 

" And them she likes also ! " Ealph interrupted, smiling. 

" Oh, if you mean she likes him in that way ! " And Lord 
Warburton turned round again. As far as he was concerned, 
however, the party was broken up. Isabel remained in con- 
versation with the gentleman from Florence till they left the 
church, and her English lover consoled himself by lending such 
attention as he might to the strains which continued to proceed 
from the choir. 



118 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



IX. 

On the morrow, in the evening, Lord "Warburton went again 
to see his friends at their hotel, and at this establishment he 
learned that they had gone to the opera. He drove to the 
opera, with the idea of paying them a visit in their box, in 
accordance with the time-honoured Italian custom ; and after 
he had obtained his admittance — ^it was one of the secondary 
theatres — ^looked about the large, bare, ill-lighted house. An 
act had just terminated, and he was at liberty to pursue Ms 
quest. After scanning two or three tiers of boxes, he perceived 
in one of the largest of these receptacles a lady whom he easily 
recognised. Miss Archer was seated facing the stage, and partly 
screened by the curtain of the box; and beside her, leaning 
back in his chair, was Mr. Gilbert Osmond. They appeared to 
have the place to themselves, and Warburton supposed that 
their companions had taken advantage of the entracte to enjoy 
the relative coolness of the lobby. He stood a while watching 
the interesting pair in the box, and asking himself whether he 
should go up and interrupt their harmonious colloquy. At last 
it became apparent that Isabel had seen him, and this accident 
determined him. He took his way to the upper regions, and 
on the staircase he met Ealph Touchett, slowly descending 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 119 

with his hat in the attitude of ennui and his hands where they 
usually were. 

" I saw you below a moment since, and was going down to 
you. I feel lonely and want company," Ealph remarked. 

" You have some that is very good that you have deserted." 

" Do you mean my cousin] Oh, she has got a visitor and 
doesn't want me. Then Miss Stackpole and Bantling have 
gone out to a caf6 to eat an ice — ^Miss Stackpole delights in an 
ice. I didn't think they wanted me either. The opera is very 
bad ; the women look like laundresses and sing like peacocks. 
I feel very low." 

" You had better go home," Lord Warburton said, without 
affectation. 

"And leave my young lady in this sad place? Ah no, I 
must watch over her." 

" She seems to have plenty of friends." 

" Yes, that's why I must watch," said Ealph, with the same 
low-voiced mock-melancholy. 

" If she doesn't want you, it's probable she doesn't want me." 

" No, you are different. Gro to the box and stay there while 
I walk about." 

Lord Warburton went to the box, where he received a very 
gracious welcome from the more attractive of its occupants. He 
exchanged greetings with Mr. Osmond, to whom he had been 
introduced the day before, and who, after he came in, sat very 
quietly, scarcely mingling in the somewhat disjointed talk in 
which Lord Warburton engaged with Isabel. It seemed to the 
latter gentleman that Miss Archer looked very pretty ; he even 
thought she looked excited ; as she was, however, at all times 
a keenly-glancing, quickly-moving, completely animated young 
woman, he may have been mistaken on this point. Her talk 



120 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

with him betrayed little agitation ; it expressed a kindness so 
ingenious and deliberate as to indicate that she was in undis- 
turbed possession of her faculties. Poor Lord Warburton had 
moments of bewilderment. She had discouraged him, formally, 
as much as a woman could ; what business had she then to have 
such soft, reassuring tones in her voice ] The others came back ; 
the bare, familiar, trivial opera began again. The box was large, 
and there was room for Lord Warburton to remain if he would 
sit a little behind, in the dark. He did so for half-an-hour, 
while Mr. Osmond sat in front, leaning forward, with his elbows 
on his knees, just behind Isabel Lord Warburton heard nothing, 
and from his gloomy comer saw nothing but the clear profile 
of this young lady, defined against the dim illumination of the 
house. When there was another interval no one moved. Mr. 
Osmond talked to Isabel, and Lord Warburton remained in his 
comer. He did so but for a short time, however ; after which 
he got up and bade good night to the ladies. Isabel said nothing 
to detain him, and then he was puzzled again. Why had she 
so sweet a voice — such a friendly accent 1 He was angry with 
himself for being puzzled, and then angry for being angry. 
Verdi's musi<3 did little to comfort him, and he left the theatre 
and walked homeward, without knowing his way, through the 
tortuous, tragical streets of Rome, where heavier sorrows than 
his had been carried under the stars. 

"What is the character of that gentleman 1" Osmond asked 
of Isabel, after the visitor had gone. 

" Irreproachable — don't you see it ] " 

" He owns about half England; that's his character," Henrietta 
remarked. " That's what they call a free country ! " 

" Ah, he is a great proprietor 1 Happy man ! " said Gilbert 
Osmond. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 121 

"Do you call that happiness — the ownership of human 
beings 1 " cried Miss Stackpole. " He owns his tenants, and he 
has thousands of them. It is pleasant to own something, but 
inanimate objects are enough for me. I don't insist on flesh 
and blood, and minds and consciences." 

" It seems to me you own a human being or two," Mr. 
Bantling suggested jocosely. " I wonder if Warburton orders 
his tenants about as you do me." 

" Lord Warburton is a great radical," Isabel said. " He has 
very advanced opinions." 

" He has very advanced stone walls. His park is in- 
closed by a gigantic iron fence, some thirty miles round," 
Henrietta announced, for the information of Mr. Osmond. 
" I should like him to converse with a few of our Boston 
radicals." 

" Don't they approve of iron fences 1 " asked Mr. Bantling. 

" Only to shut up wicked conservatives. I always feel as if 
I were talking to you over a fence ! " 

"Do you know him well, this unreformed reformer]" 
Osmond went on, questioning Isabel. 

" WeU enough." 

"Do you like him 1" 

" Very much." 

" Is he a man of ability ] " 

" Of excellent ability, and as good as he looks.'* 

"As good as he is good-looking do you meani He is very 
good-looking. How detestably fortunate ! to be a great English 
magnate, to be clever and handsome into the bargain, and, by 
way of finishing oflf, to enjoy your favour ! That's a man I 
could envy." 

Isabel gave a serious smile. 



122 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" You seem to me to be always envying some one. Yesterday 
it was the Pope ; to-day it's poor Lord Warburton." 

" My envy is not dangeious ; it is very platonic. Why do 
you call him poor 1 " 

" Women usually pity men after they have hurt them ; that 
is their great way of showing kindness," said Ealph, joining' in 
the conversation for the first time, with a cynicism so trans- 
parently ingenious as to be virtually innocent. 

"Pray, have I hurt Lord Warburtoni" Isabel asked, raising 
her eyebrows, as if the idea were perfectly noveL 

"It serves him right if you have," said Henrietta, while the 
curtain rose for the ballet. 

Isabel saw no more of her attributive victim for the next 
twenty-four hours, but on the second day after the visit to the 
opera she encountered him in the gallery of the Capitol, where 
he was standing before the lion of the collection, the statue of 
the Dying Gladiator. She had come in with her companions, 
among whom, on this occasion again, Gilbert Osmond was 
numbered, and the party, having ascended the staircase, entered 
the <first and finest of the rooms. Lord Warburton spoke to her 
with all his usual geniality, but said in a moment that he was 
leaving the gallery. 

"And I am leaving Kome," he added. "I should bid you 
good-bye." 

I shall not undertake to explain why, but Isabel was sorry to 
hear it. It was, perhaps, because she had ceased to be afraid 
of his renewing his suit ; she was thinking of something else. 
She was on the point of saying she was sorry, but she checked 
herself and simply wished him a happy journey. 

He looked at her with a somewhat heavy eye. 

" I am afraid you think me rather inconsistent," he said. " I 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 123 

told you the other day that I wanted so much to stay a 
whHe." 

" Oh no ; you could easily change your mind." 

« That's what I have done." 

" Bon voyage, then." 

" You're in a great hurry to get rid of me," said his lordship, 
rather dismally. 

" Not in the least. But I hate partings." 

" You don't care what I do," he went on pitifully. 

Isabel looked at him for a moment. 

" Ah," she said, " you are not keeping your promise 1 " 

He coloured like a boy of fifteen. 

"If I am not, then it's because I can't ; and that's why I am 
going." 

" Good-bye, then." 

"Good-bye." He lingered still, however. "When shall I 
see you again 1 " 

Isabel hesitated, and then, as if she had had a happy inspira- 
tion — " Some day after you are married." 

" That will never be. It will be after you are." 

" That will do as well," said Isabel, smiling. 

" Yes, quite as well. Good-bye." 

They shook hands, and he left her alone in the beautiful 
room, among the shining antique marbles. She sat down in the 
middle of the circle of statues, looking at them vaguely, resting 
her eyes on their beautiful blank faces ; listening, as it were, to 
their eternal silence. It is impossible, in Eome at least, to look 
long at a great company of Greek sculptures without feeling the 
effect of their noble quietude. It soothes and moderates the 
spirit, it purifies the imagination. I say in Eome especially, 
because the Roman air is an exquisite medium for such im- 



124 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

pressions. The golden sunshine mingles with them, the great 
stillness of the past, so vivid yet, though it is nothing but a 
void full of names, seems to throw a solemn spell upon them. 
The blinds were partly closed in the windows of the Capitol, 
and a clear, warm shadow rested on the figures and made them 
more perfectly human. Isabel sat there a long time, under the 
charm of their motionless grace, seeing life between their gazing 
eyelids and purpose in their marble lips. The dark red walls 
of the room threw them into relief ; the polished marble floor 
reflected their beauty. She had seen them all before, but her 
enjoyment repeated itself, and it was all the greater because she 
was glad, for the time, to be alone. At the last her thoughts 
wandered away from them, solicited by images of a vitality 
more complete. An occasional tourist came into the room, 
stopped and stared a moment at the Dying Gladiator, and then 
passed out of the other door, creaking over the smooth pave- 
ment. At the end of half-an-hour Gilbert Osmond reappeared, 
apparently in advance of his companions. He strolled towards 
her slowly, with his hands behind him, and with his usual 
bright, inquiimg. yet not appealing smile. 

"I am surprised to fijid you alone," he said. "I thought 
you had company." 

" So I have — the best." And Isabel glanced at the circle of 
sculpture. 

" Do you call this better company than an English peerl " 

" Ah, my English peer left me some time ago," said Isabel, 
getting up. She spoke, with intention, a little dryly. 

Mr. Osmond noted her dryness, but it did not prevent him 
from giving a laugh. 

"I am afraid that what I heard the other evening is true ; 
you are rather cruel to that nobleman." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 125 

Isabel looked a moment at the vanquished Gladiator. 

" It is not true. I am scrupulously kind." 

" That's exactly what I mean 1 " Gilbert Osmond exclaimed, 
so humorously that his joke needs to be explained. 

We knew that he was fond of originals, of rarities, of the 
superior, the exquisite ; and now that he had seen Lord War- 
burton, whom he thought a very fine example of his race and 
order, he perceived a new attraction in the idea of taking to 
himself a young lady who had qualified herself to figure in his 
collection of choice objects by rejecting the splendid offer of a 
British aristocrat. Gilbert Osmond had a high appreciation of 
the British aristocracy — ^he had never forgiven Providence for 
not making him an English duke — and could measure the unex- 
pectedness of this conduct. It would be proper that the woman 
he should marry should have done something of that sort. 



126 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



Kalph Touohbtt, for reasons best known to himself, had 
seen fit to say that Gilbert Osmond was not a good fellow ; but 
this assertion was not borne out by the gentleman's conduct 
during the rest of the visit to Eome. He spent a portion of 
each day with Isabel and her companions, and gave every 
indication of being an easy man to live with. It was impossible 
not to feel that he had excellent points, and indeed this is per- 
haps why Ealph Touchett made his want of good fellowship a 
reproach to him. Even Ealph was obliged to admit that just 
now he was a delightful companion. His good humour was 
imperturbable, his knowledge universal, his manners were the 
gentlest in the world. His spirits were not visibly high ; it was 
difficult to think of Gilbert Osmond as boisterous ; he had a 
mortal dislike to loudness or eagerness. He thought Miss 
Archer sometimes too eager, too pronounced. It was a pity she 
had that fault ; because if she had not had it she would really 
have had none ; she would have been as bright and soft as an 
April cloud. If Osmond was not loud, however, he was deep, 
and during these closing days of the Eoman May he had a gaiety 
that matched with slow irregular walks under the pines of the 
Villa Borghese, among the small sweet meadow-flowers and the 
mossy marbles. He was pleased with everything ; he had 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. ? 127 

never before been pleased with so many things at once. Old 
impressions, old enjoyments, renewed themselves ; one evening, 
going home to his room at the inn, he wrote down a little 
sonnet to which he prefixed the title of " Eome Eevisited." A 
day or two later he showed this piece of correct and ingenious 
verse to Isabel, explaining to her that it was an Italian fashion 
to commemorate the pleasant occasions of life by a tribute to 
the muse. In general Osmond took his pleasures singly; he 
was usually disgusted with something that seemed to him ugly 
or offensive ; his mind was rarely visited with moods of com- 
prehensive satisfaction. But at present he was happy — happier 
than he had perhaps ever been in his life ; and the feeling had 
a large foundation. This was simply the sense of success — ^the 
most agreeable emotion of the human heart. Osmond had never 
had too much of it ; in this respect he had never been spoiled ; 
as he knew perfectly well and often reminded himself. "Ah 
no, I have not been spoiled; certainly I have not been spoiled," 
he used to repeat to himself. "If I do succeed before I die, I 
shaU have earned it weU." Absolutely void of success his career 
had not been ; a very moderate amount of reflection would have 
assured him of this. But his triumphs were, some of them, 
now, too old ; others had been too easy. The present one had 
been less difficult than might have been expected ; but it had 
been easy — ^that is, it had been rapid — only because he had 
made an altogether exceptional effort, a greater effort than he 
had believed it was in him to make. The desire to succeed 
greatly — ^in something or other — had been the dream of his 
youth; but as the years went on, the conditions attached to 
success became so various and repulsive that the idea of making 
an effort gradually lost its charm. It was not dead, however ; 
it only slept ; it revived after he had made the acquaintance of 



128 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Isabel Archer. Osmond had felt that any enterprise in which 
the chance of failure was at all considerable would never have 
an attraction for him ; to fail would have been unspeakably 
odious, would have left an ineffaceable stain upon his life. 
Success was to seem in advance definitely certain — certain, that 
is, on this one condition, that the effort should be an agreeable 
one to make. That of exciting an interest on the part of Isabel 
Archer corresponded to this description, for the girl had pleased 
hJTTi from the first of his seeing her. We have seen that she 
thought him " fine"; and Gilbert Osmond returned the compli- 
ment. "We have also seen (or heard) that he had a great dread 
of vulgarity, and on this score his mind was at rest with regard 
to our young lady. He was not afraid that she would disgust 
him or irritate him ; he had no fear that she would even, in the 
more special sense of the word, displease him. If she was too 
eager, she could be taught to be less so ; that was a fault which 
diminished with growing knowledge. She might defy him, she 
might anger him ; this was another matter from displeasing 
him, and on the whole a less serious one. If a woman were 
ungraceful and common, her whole quality was vitiated, and 
one could take no precautions against that ; one*s own delicacy 
would avail little. If, however, she were only wilful and high- 
tempered, the defect might be managed with comparative ease ; 
for had one not a will of one's own that one had .been keeping 
for years in the best condition — ^as pure and keen as a sword 
protected by its sheath 1 

Though I have tried to speak with extreme discretion, the 
reader may .have gathered a suspicion that Gilbert Osmond was 
not untainted by selfishness. This is rather a coarse imputation 
to put upon a man of his refinement ; and it behoves us at all 
times to remember the familiar proverb about those who live in 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 129 

glass houses. If Mr. Osmond was more selfish than most of his 
fellows, the fact will still establish itself. Lest it should fail to 
do so, I must decline to commit myself to an accusation so gross; 
the more especially as several of the items of our story would 
seem to point the other way. It is well known that there are 
few indications of selfishness more conclusive (on the part of a 
gentleman at least) than the preference for a single life. Gilbert 
Osmond, after having tasted of matrimony, had spent a succession 
of years in the full enjoyment of recovered singleness. He was 
familiar with the simplicity of purpose, the lonely liberties, of 
bachelorhood. He had reached that period of life when it is 
supposed to be doubly difficult to renounce these liberties, 
endeared as they are by long association ; and yet he was pre- 
pared to make the generous sacrifice. It would seem that this 
might fairly be set down fco the credit of the noblest of our 
qualities — the faculty of self-devotion. Certain it is that 
Osmond's desire to marry had been deep and distinct. It had 
not been notorious ; he had not gone about asking people whether 
they knew a nice girl with a little money. Money was an 
object ; but this was not his manner of proceeding, and no one 
knew — or even greatly cared — ^whether he wished to marry or not. 
Madame Merle knew — ^that we have already perceived. It was 
not that he had told her ; on the whole he would not have cared 
to teU her. But there were things of which she had no need to 
be told — things as to which she had a sort of creative intuition. 
She had recognised a truth that was none the less pertinent for 
being very subtle : the truth that there was something very 
imperfect in Osmond's situation as it stood. He was a failure, 
of course; that was an old story; to Madame Merle's percep- 
tion he would always be a failure. But there were degrees of 
ineffectiveness, and there was no need of taking one of the 

VOL. II. K 



180 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

■ - — — * — 

highest. Success, for Gilbert Osmond, would be to make himself 
felt ; that was the only success to which he could now pretend. 
It is not a kind of distinction that is ofl&cially recognised — 
unless indeed the operation be performed upon multitudes of 
men. Osmond's line would be to impress himself not largely 
but deeply; a distinction of the most private sort. A single 
character might offer the whole measure of it ; the clear and 
sensitive nature of a generous girl would make space for the 
record. The record of course would be complete if the young 
lady should have a fortune, and Madame Merle would have 
taken no pains to make Mr. Osmond acquainted with Mrs. 
Touchett's niece if Isabel had been as scantily dowered as 'when 
first she met her. He had waited all these years because he 
wanted only the best, and a portionless bride naturally would 
not have been the best. He had waited so long in vain that he 
finally almost lost his interest in the subject — not having kept 
it up by venturesome experiments. It had become improbable 
that the best was now to be had, and if he wished to make 
himself felt, there was soft and supple little Pansy, who would 
evidently respond to the slightest pressure. When at last the 
best did present itself Osmond recognised it like a gentleman. 
There was therefore no incongruity in his wishing to many — 
it was his own idea of success, as well as that which Madame 
Merle, with her old-time interest in his affairs, entertained for 
him. Let it not, however, be supposed that he was guilty of 
the error of believing that Isabel's character was of that passive 
sort which offers a free field for domination. He was sure 
that she would constantly act — act in the sense of enthusiastic 
concession. 

Shortly before the time 'which had been fixed in advance for 
her return to Florence, this young lady received from Mrs. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 131 

Touchett a telegram whicli ran as follows : — " Leave Florence 
4th June, Bellaggio, and take you if you have not other views. 
But can't wait if you dawdle in Eome." The dawdling in Kome 
was very pleasant, but Isabel had no other views, and she wrote 
to her aunt that she would immediately join her. She told 
Gilbert Osmond that she had done so, and he replied that, spend- 
ing many of his summers as well eus his winters in Italy, he 
himself would loiter a little longer among the Seven Hills. He 
should not return to Florence for ten days more, and in that time 
she would have started for Bellaggio. It might be long, in this 
case, before he should see her again. This conversation took 
place in the large decorated sitting-room which our friends 
occupied at the hotel ; it was late in the evening, and Ealph 
Touchett was to take his cousin back to Florence on the morrow. 
Osmond had found the girl alone ; Miss Stackpole had con- 
tracted a friendship with a delightful American family on the 
fourth floor, and had mounted the interminable staircase to pay 
them a visit. Miss Stackpole contracted friendships, in travel- 
ling, with great freedom, and had formed several in railway- 
carriages, which were among her most valued ties. Kalph was 
making arrangements for the morrow's journey, and Isabel sat 
alone in a wilderness of yellow upholstery. The chairs and sofas 
were orange ; the walls and windows were draped in purple and 
gilt. The mirrors, the pictures, had great flamboyant frames ; 
the ceiling was deeply vaulted and painted over with naked 
muses and cherubs. To Osmond the place was painfully ugly ; 
the false colours, the sham splendour, made him suffer. Isabel 
had taken in hand a volume of Ampere, presented, on their 
arrival in Home, by Ealph ; but though she held it in her lap 
with her finger vaguely kept in the place, she was not impatient 
to go on with her reading. A lamp covered with a drooping 

K 2 



132 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

veil of pink tissue-paper burned on the table beside her, and 
diffused a strange pale rosiness over the scene. 

"You say you will come back; but who knows?"" Gilbert 
Osmond said. " I think you are much more likely to start on 
your voyage round the world. You are under no obligation to 
come back ; you can do exactly what you choose ; you can roam 
through space." 

" Well, Italy is a part of space," Isabel answered ; " I can 
take it on the way." 

" On the way round the world 1 Ko, don't do that. Don't 
put us into a parenthesis — give us a chapter to ourselves. I 
don't want to see you on your travels. I would rather see you 
when they are over. I should like to see you when you are 
tired and satiated/' Osmond added, in a moment. *^ I shall 
prefer you in that state." 

Isabel, with her eyes bent down, fingered the pages of M. 
Ampere a little. 

"You turn things into ridicule without seeming to do it, 
though not, I think, without intending it," she said at last. 
** You have no respect for my travels — you think them 
ridiculous." 

"Where do you find that?" 

Isabel went on in the same tone, fretting the edge of her book 
with the paper-knife. 

"You see my ignorance, my blunders, the way I wander 
about as if the world belonged to me, simply because — ^because 
it has been put into my power to do so. You don't think a 
woman ought to do that. You think it bold and ungraceful.'* 

"I think it beautiful," said Osmond. "You know my 
opinions — I have treated you to enough of them. Don't you 
.remember my teUing you that one ought to make one's life a 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 133 

work of art 1 You looked rather shocked at first ; but then I 
told you that it was exactly what you seemed to me to be trying 
to do with your own life." 

Isabel looked up from her book. 

" What you despise most in the world ia bad art." 

** Possibly. But yours seem to me very good." 

" If I were to go to Japan next winter, you would laugh at 
me," Isabel continued. 

Osmond gave a smile — a keen one, but not a laugh, for the 
tone of their conversation was not jocular. Isabel was almost 
tremulously serious ; he had seen her so before. 

" You have an imagination that startles one ! " 

"That is exactly what I say. You think such an idea 
absurd." 

" I would give my little finger to go to Japan ; it is one of 
the countries I want most to see. Can't you believe that, with 
my taste for old lacquer 1 " 

" I haven't a taste for old lacquer to excuse me,** said Isabel. 

" You have a better excuse — the means of going. You are 
quite wrong in your theory that I laugh at you. I don't know 
what put it into your head." 

"It wouldn't be remarkable if you did think it ridiculoud 
that I should have the means to travel, when you have not ; for 
you know everything, and I know nothing." 

" The more reason why you should travel and learn," said 
Osmond, smiling. " Besides," he added, more gravely, " I don't 
know everything." 

Isabel was not struck with the oddity of his saying this 
gravely ; she was thinking that the pleasantest incident of her 
life — so it pleased her to qualify her little visit to Eome — was 
coming to an end. That most of the interest of this episode 



134 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

had been owing to Mr. Osmond — ^this reflection she was not just 
now at pains to make ; she had ahready done the point abundant 
justice. Bat she said to herself that if there were a danger that 
they should not meet again, perhaps after all it would be as welL 
Happy things do not repeat themselves, and these few days had 
been interfused with the element of success. She might come 
back to Italy and find him different — ^this strange man who 
pleased her just as he was ; and it would be better not to come 
than run the risk of that. But if she was not to come, the 
greater was the pity that this happy week was over; for a 
moment she felt her heart throb with a kind of delicious pain. 
The sensation kept her silent, and Gilbert Osmond was silent 
too ; he was looking at her. 

" Go everywhere," he said at last, in a low, kind voice ; 
"do everything; get everything out of life. Be happy — be 
triumphant.'' 

" What do you mean by being triumphant ? " 

" Doing what you like." 

" To triumph, then, it seems to me, is to fail ! Doing what 
we like is often very tiresome." 

" Exactly," said Osmond, with his quick responsiveness. 
** As I intimated just now, you will be tired some day." He 
paused a moment, and then he went on : '^ I don't know 
whether I had better not wait till then for something I wish to 
say to you." 

" Ah, I can't advise you without knowing what it is. But I am 
horrid when I am tired," Isabel added, with due inconsequence. 

"I don't believe that. You are angry, sometimes — that I 
can believe, though I have never seen it. But I am sure you 
are never disagreeable." 

" Not even when I lose my temper 1 " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 135 

" You don't lose it — ^you find it, and that must be beautiful." 
Osmond spoke very simply — almost solemnly. " There must 
be something very noble about that." 

" If I could only find it now ! " the girl exclaimed, laughing, 
yet frowning. 

" I am not afraid ; I should fold my arms and admire you. 
I am speaking very seriously." He was leaning forward, with a 
hand on each knee ; for some moments he bent his eyes on the 
floor. " What I wish to say to you," he went on at last, looking 
up, " is that I find I am in love with you." 

Isabel instantly rose from her chair. 

" Ah, keep that till I am tired ! " she murmured. 

" Tired of hearing it from others 1 " And Osmond sat there, 
looking up at her. " No, you may heed it now, or i;iever, as 
you please. But, after all, I must say it now." 

She had turned away, but in the movement she had stopped 
herself and dropped her gaze upon him. The two remained a 
moment in this situation, exchanging a long look — the large, 
conscious look of the critical hours of life. Then he got up and 
came near her, deeply respectful, as if he were afraid he had 
been too familiar. 

" I am thoroughly in love with you." 

He repeated the announcement in a tone of almost impersonal 
discretion ; like a man who expected very little from it, but 
spoke for his own relief. 

The tears came into Isabel's eyes — they were caused by an 
intenser throb of that pleasant pain I spoke of a moment ago. 
There was an immense sweetness in the words he had uttered ; 
but, morally speaking, she retreated before them — ^facing him 
stiU — as she had retreated in two or three cases that we know of 
in which the same words had been spoken. 



186 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

** Oh, don't 8ay that, please/' slie answered at last, in a tone 
of entreaty which had nothing of conventional modesty, but 
which expressed the dread of having, in this case too, to choose 
and decide. What made her dread great was precisely the force 
which, as it would seem, ought to have banished all dread — ^the 
consciousness of what was in her own heart. It was terrible to 
have to surrender herself to that. 

"I haven't the idea thatjit will matter much to you," said 
Osmond. " I have too little to offer you. What I have — it's 
enough for me ; but it's not enough for you. I have neither 
fortune, nor fame, nor extrinsic advantages of any kind. So I 
offer nothing. I only tell you because I think it can't offend 
you, and some day or other it may give you pleasure. It gives 
me pleasure, I assure you," he went on, standing there before 
her, bonding forward a little, turning his hat, which he had 
iaken up, slowly round, with a movement which had all the 
decent tremor of awkwardness and none of its oddity, and pre- 
senting to her his keen, expressive, emphatic face. " It gives 
me no pain, because it is perfectly simple. For me you will 
always be the most important woman in the world." 

Isabel looked at herself in this character — looked intently, and 
thought that she filled it with a certain grace. But what she 
said was not an expression of this complacency. " You don't 
offend me; but you ought to remember that, without being 
offended, one may be incommoded, troubled." " Incommoded": 
she hoard herself saying that, and thought it a ridiculous word. 
But it W8W the word that came to her. 

**I remember, perfectly. Of course you are surprised and 
startled. But if it is nothing but that, it will pass away. And 
it will perhaps leave something that I may not be ashamed of." 

" I don't know what it may leave. You see at all events that 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 137 



I am. not overwhelmed," said Isabel, with rather a pale smUe. 
*' I am not too troubled to think. And I think that I am glad 
"we are separating — that I leave Rome to-morrow." 

" Of course I don't agree with you there." 

"I don't know you," said Isabel, abruptly; and then she 
Coloured, as she beard herself saying what she had said almost a 
year before to Lord Warburton. 

" If you were not going away you would know me better." 

" I shall do that some other time." 

" I hope so. I am very easy to know." 

" No, no," said the girl, with a flash of bright eagerness ; 
" there you are not sincere. You are not easy to know ; no one 
could be less so." 

" Well," Osmond answered, with a laugh, " I said that because 
I know myself. That may be a boast, but I do." 

" Very likely ; but you are very wise." 

" So are you. Miss Archer ! " Osmond exclaimed. 

" I don't feel so just now. Still, I am wise enough to think 
you had better go. Good night." 

" God bless you ! " said Gilbert Osmond, taking the hand 
which she failed to surrender to him. And then in a moment 
he added, " If we meet again, you will find me as you leave me. 
If we don't, I shall be so, aU the same." 

" Thank you very much. Good-bye." 

There was something quietly firm about Isabel's visitor ; he 
might go of his own movement, but he would not be dismissed. 
" There is one thing more," he said. " I haven't asked anything 
of you — not even a thought in the future ; you must do me that 
justice. But there is a little service I should like to ask. I 
shall not return home for several days ; Eome is delightful, and 
it is a good place for a man in my state of mind. Oh, I know 



138 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

you are sorry to leave it ; but you are right to do what your 
aunt wishes." 

" She doesn't even wish it ! " Isabel broke out, strangely. 

Osmond for a moment was apparently on the point of saying 
something that would match these words. But he changed his 
mind, and rejoined, simply — " Ah well, it's proper you should 
go with her, all the same. Do everything that's proper ; I go 
in for that. Excuse my being so patronising. You say you 
don't know me ; but when you do you will discover what a 
worship I have for propriety." 

" You are not conventional 1 " said Isabel, very gravely. 

" I like the way you utter that word ! Ko, I am not conven- 
tional : I am convention itself. You don't understand that 1 '* 
And Osmond paused a moment, smiling. "I should like to 
explain it." Then, with a sudden, quick, bright naturalness — 
" Do come back again ! " he cried. " There are so many things 
we might talk about." 

Isabel stood there with lowered eyes. " What service did 
you speak of just now ? " 

" Go and see my little daughter before you leave Florence. 
She is alone at the villa ; I decided not to send her to my sister, 
who hasn't my ideas. Tell her she must love her poor father 
very much," said Gilbert Osmond, gently. 

** It will be a great pleasure to me to go," Isabel answered. 
" I will tell her what you say. Once more, good-bye." 

On this he took a rapid, respectful leave. When he had 
gone, she stood a moment, looking about her, and then she seated 
herself, slowly, with an air of deliberation. She sat there till 
her companions came back, with folded hands, gazing at the 
ugly carpet. Her agitation — ^for it had not diminished — was 
very stiU, very deep. That which had happened was something 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 189 

that for a week past her imagination had been going forward 
to meet; but here, when it came, she stopped — her imagina- 
tion halted. The working of this young lady's spirit was 
strange, and I can only give it to you as I see it, not hoping to 
make it seem altogether natural. Her imagination stopped, as I 
say ; there was a last vague space it could not cross — a dusky, 
uncertain tract which looked ambiguous, and even slightly 
treacherous, like a moorland seen in the winter twilight. But 
she was to cross it yet. 



140 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



XI. 

Under her cousin's escort Isabel returned on the morrow to 
Florence, and Kalph Touchett, though usually he was not fond 
of railway journeys, thought very weU of the successive hours 
passed in the train which hurried his companion away from the 
city now distinguished by Gilbert Osmond's preference — hours 
that were to form the first stage in a still larger scheme of travel. 
Miss Stackpole had remained behind ; she was planning a little 
trip to Kaples, to be executed with Mr. Bantling's assistance. 
Isabel was to have but three days in Florence before the 4th of 
June, the date of Mrs. Touchett's departure, and she determined 
to devote the last of these to her promise to go and see Pansy 
Osmond. Her plan, however, seemed for a moment likely to 
modify itselj^ in deference to a plan of Madame Merle's. This 
lady was still at Casa Touchett ; but she too was on the point of 
leaving Florence, her next station being an ancient castle in the 
mountains of Tuscany, the residence of a noble family of that 
country, whose acquaintance (she had known them, as she said, 
" for ever ") seemed to Isabel, in the light of certain photographs 
of their immense crenellated dwelling which her friend was able 
to show her, a precious privilege. 

She mentioned to Madame Merle that Mr. Osmond had asked 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 141 

her to call upon his daughter ; she did not mention to her that 
he had also made her a declaration of love. 

'^ Ah, comme cela se trouve / " the elder lady exclaimed. " I 
myself have heen thinking it would be a kindness to take a look 
at the child before I go into the country." 

" We can go together, then," said Isabel, reasonably. I say 
" reasonably," because the proposal was not uttered in the spirit 
of enthusiasm. She had prefigured her visit as made in solitude ; 
she should like it better so. Nevertheless, to her great consider- 
ation for Madame Merle «he was prepared to sacrifice this mystic 
sentiment. 

Her friend meditated, with her usual suggestive smile. "After 
all," she presently said, " why should we both go ; having, each 
of us, so much to do during these last hours ] " 

" Very good ; I can easily go alone." 

"I don't know about your going alone — ^to the house of a 
handsome bachelor. He has been married — but so long 
ago I " 

Isabel stared. " When Mr. Osmond is away, what does it 
matter 1 " 

** They don't know he is away, you see." 

" They ] Whom do you mean ? " 

" Every one. But perhaps it doesn't matter." 

*' If you were going, why shouldn't I ?" Isabel asked. 

" Because I am an old frump, and you are a beautiful young 
woman." 

" Granting all that, you have not promised." 

" How much you think of your promises ! " said Madame 
Merle, with a smile of genial mockery. 

" I think a great deal of my promises. Does that surprise 
you ] " 



142 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" You are right," Madame Merle reflected audibly. " I really 
think you wish to be kind to the child." 

" I wish very much to be kind to her." 

" Go and see her, then j no one will be the wiser. And tell 
her I would have come if you had not. — Or rather," Madame 
Merle added — ** don't tell her ; she won't care." 

As Isabel drove, in the publicity of an open vehicle, along the 
charming winding way which led to Mr. Osmond's hill-top, she 
wondered what Madame Merle had meant by no one being the 
wiser. Once in a while, at large intervals, this lady, in whose 
discretion, as a general thing, there was something almost brilliant^ 
dropped a remark of ambiguous quality, struck a note that 
sounded false. What cared Isabel Archer for the vulgar judg- 
ments of obscure people 'i and did Madame Merle suppose that 
she was capable of doing a deed in secret ] Of course not — she 
must have meant something else — something which in the press 
of thcnhours that preceded her departure she had not had time 
to explain. Isabel would return to this some day ; there were 
certain things as to which she liked to be clear. She heard 
Pansy strumming at the piano in another apartment, as she 
herself was ushered into Mr. Osmond's drawing-room ; the little 
girl was " practising," and Isabel was pleased to think that she 
performed this duty faithfully. Presently Pansy came in, 
smoothing down her frock, and did the honours of her father's 
house with the wide-eyed conscientiousness of a sensitive child- 
Isabel sat there for half-aii-hour, and Pansy entertained her like 
a little lady — not chattering, but conversing, and showing the 
same coui'teous interest in Isabel's affairs that Isabel was so good 
as to take in hers. Isabel wondered at her ; as I have said 
before, she had never seen a child like that. How well she had 
been taught, said our keen young lady, how prettily she had 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 143 

been directed and fashioned j and yet how simple, how natural, 
how innocent she has been kept ! Isabel was fond of psycho- 
logical problems, and it had pleased her, up to this time, to be 
in doubt as to whether Miss Pansy were not all-knowing. Was 
her infantine serenity but the perfection of self-consciousness ? 
Was it put on to please her father's visitor, or was it the direct 
expression of a little neat, orderly character? The hour that 
Isabel spent in Mr. Osmond's beautiful empty, dusky rooms — 
the windows had been half-darkened, to keep out the heat, and 
here and there, through an easy crevice, the splendid summer 
day peeped in, lighting a gleam of faded colour or tarnished gilt 
in the rich-looking gloom — Isabel's interview with the daughter 
of the house, I say, effectually settled this question. Pansy was 
really a blank page, a pure white surface ; she was not clever 
enough for precocious coquetries. She was not clever ; Isabel 
could see that ; she only had nice feelings. There was some- 
thing touching about her ; Isabel had felt it before 3 she would 
be an easy victim of fate. She would have no will, no power to 
resist, no sense of her own importance ; only an exquisite taste, 
and an appreciation, equally exquisite, of such affection as might 
be bestowed upon her. She would easily be mystified, easily 
crushed ; her force would be solely in her power to cling. She 
moved about the place with Isabel, who had asked leave to walk 
through the other rooms again, where Pansy gave her judgment 
on several works of art. She talked about her prospects, her 
occupations, her father's intentions ; she was not egotistical, but 
she felt the propriety of giving Isabel the information that so 
observant a visitor would naturally expect. 

" Please tell me," she said, " did papa, in Eome, go to see 
Madame Catherine? He told me he would if he had time. 
Perhaps he had not time. Papa likes a great deal of time. He 



144 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

wished to speak about my education ; it isn't finished yet, you 
know. I don't know what they can do with me more ; but it 
appears it is far from finished. Papa told me one day lie 
thought he would finish it himself; for the last year or two, at 
the convent, the masters that teach the tall girls are so very 
dear. Papa is not rich, and I should be very sorry if he were 
to pay much money for me, because I don't think I am worth 
it. I don't learn quickly enough, and I have got no memory. 
For what I am told, yes — especially when it is pleasant ; but 
not for what I learn in a book. There was a young girl, who 
was my best friend, and they took her away from the convent 
when she was fourteen, to make — ^how do you say it in English % 
' — to make a dot You don't say it in English 1 I hope it isn't 
wrong ; I only mean they wished to keep the money, to marry 
her. I don't know whether it is for that that papa wishes to keep 
the money, to marry me. It costs so much to marry ! " Pansy 
went on, with a sigh ; " I think papa might make that economy. 
At any rate I am too young to think about it yet, and I don't 
care for any gentleman ; I mean for any but him. If he were not 
my papa I should like to marry him ; I would rather be his 
daughter than the wife of — of some strange person. I miss him 
very much, but not so much as you might think, for I have been 
so much away from him. Papa has always been principally 
for holidays. I miss Madame Catherine almost more ; but you 
must not tell him that. You shall not see him again 1 I am 
very sorry for that. Of every one who comes here I like you 
the best. That is not a great compliment, for there are not 
many people. It was very kind of you to come to-day — so far 
from your house ; for I am as yet only a child. Oh, yes, I have 
only the occupations of a child. When did you give them up, 
the occupations of a child ? I should like to know how old you 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 145 

are, but I don't know whether it is right to ask. At the convent 
they told us that we must never ask the age. I don't like to do 
anything that is not expected ; it looks as if one had not been 
properly taught. I myself — I should never like to be taken by 
surprise. Papa left directions for everything. I go to bed very 
early. When the sun goes off that side I go into the garden* 
Papa left strict orders that I was not to get scorched. I always 
enjoy the view j the mountains are so graceful In Eome, from 
the convent, we saw nothing but roofs and bell-towers. I 
practise three hours. I do not play very well. You play your- 
self ] I wish very much that you would play something for 
me ; papa wishes very much that I should hear good music 
^ladame Merle has played for me several times ; that is what I 
like best about Madame Merle ; she has great facility. I shall 
never have facility* And I have no voice — just a little thread." 

Isabel, gratified this respectful wish, drew off her gloves, and 
sat down to the piano, while Pansy, standing beside her, watched 
her white hands move quickly over the keys. When she stopped, 
she kissed the child good-bye, and held her a moment, looking 
at her. 

" Be a good child," she said ; " give pleasure to your father." 

" I think that is what I live for," Pansy answered. " He 
has not much pleasure ; he is rather a sad man." 

Isabel listened to this assertion with an interest which she 
felt it to be almost ♦a torment that she was obliged to conceal 
from the child. It was her pride that obliged her, and a certain 
sense of decency; there were still other things in her head 
which she felt a strong impulse, instantly checked, to say to 
Pansy about her father ; there were things it would have given 
her pleasure to hear the child, to make the child, say. But she 
no sooner became conscious of these things than her imagination 

VOL. n. L 



14« THE PORTRJUT OF A LADY. 

was bnsbed with honor at the idea of taking advantage of the 
little girl — ^it was of this she wonld have accused heiself — and 
of leaving an audible trace of her emotion behind. She had 
come — she had come ; bat she had staved only an hour ! She 
rose qoicklj from the mosic-stool; even then, however, she 
lingered a moment, still holding her small companion, drawing 
the child's little tender person closer, and looking down at her. 
She was obliged to confess it to herself — she would have taken 
a passionate pleasure in talking about Gilbert Osmond to this 
innocent, diminutive creature who was near to him. Bat she 
said not another word ; she only kissed Pansy once more. They 
went together through the vestibule, to the door which opened 
into the court; and there P^msy stopped, looking rather 
wistfully beyond. 

" I may go no further," she said. *' I have promised papa 
not to go out of this door." 

" You are right to obey hiTn ; he will never ask you anything 
unreasonable." 

" I shall always obey him. But whe^i will you come again ? " 

" Not for a long time, I am afraid." 

" As soon as you can, I hope. I am only a little girl,'* said 
Pansy, *' but I shall always expect you." 

And the small figure stood in the high, dark doorway, watch- 
ing Isabel cross the clear, grey court, and disappear into the 
brightness beyond the big portone^ which gave a wider gleam as 
it opened. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 147 



xn. 

Isabel came back to Florence, but only after several months; 
an interval sufficiently replete with incident. It is not, however, 
during this interval that we are closely concerned with her ; our 
attention is engaged again on a certain day in the late spring- 
time, shortly after her return to the Palazzo Crescentini, and a 
year from the date of the incidents I have just narrated. She 
was alone on this occasion, in one of the smaller of the numerous 
rooms devoted by Mrs. Touchett to social uses, and there was 
that in her expression and attitude which would have suggested 
that she was expecting a visitor. The tall window was open, 
and though its green shutters were partly drawn, the bright air 
of the garden had come in through a broad interstice and filled 
the room with warmth and perfume. Our young lady -stood 
for some time at the window, with her hands clasped behind 
her, gazing into the brilliant aperture in the manner of a person 
relapsing into reverie. She was pre-occupied ; she was too rest- 
less to sit down, to work, to read. It was evidently not her 
design, however, to catch a glimpse of her visitor before he 
should pass into the house j for the entrance to the palace was 
not through the garden, in which stillness and privacy always 
reigned. She was endeavouring rather to anticipate his arrival 
by a process of conjecture, and to judge by the expression of her 
face this attempt gave her plenty to do. She was extremely 

L 2 



148 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

grave ; not sad exactly, but deeply serious. The lapse of a year 
may doubtless account for a considerable increase of gravity ; 
tbough this will depend a good deal upon the manner in which 
the year has been spent. Isabel had spent hers in seeing the 
world ; she had moved about ; she had travelled ; she had 
exerted herself with an almost passionate activity. She was now, 
to her own sense, a very different person from the frivolous 
young woman from Albany who had begun to see Europe upon 
the lawn at Gardencourt a couple of years before. She flattered 
herself that she had gathered a rich experience, that she knew 
a great deal more of life than this light-minded creature had 
even suspected. If her thoughts just now had inclined them- 
selves to retrospect, instead of fluttering their wings nervously 
about the present, they would have evoked a multitude of inter- 
esting pictures. These pictures would have been both landscapes 
and figure-pieces ; the latter, however, would have been the more 
numerous. With several of the figures concerned in these 
combinations we are already acquainted. There would be, for 
instance, the conciliatory Lily, our heroine's sister and Edmund 
Ludlow's wife, who came out from New York to spend five 
months with Isabel. She left her husband behind her, but she 
brought her children, to whom Isabel now played with equal 
munificence and tenderness the part of maiden-aunt. Mr. 
Ludlow, towards the last, had been able to snatch a few weeks 
from his forensic triumphs, and, crossing the ocean with extreme 
rapidity, spent a month with the two ladies in Paris, before 
taking his wife home. The little Ludlows had not yet, even 
from the American point of view, reached the proper tourist-age ; 
so that while her sister was with her, Isabel confined her move- 
ments to a narrow circle. Lily and the babies had joined her in 
Switzerland in the month of July, and they had spent a summer 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 149 

of fine weather in an Alpine valley where the flowers were 
thick in the meadows, and the shade of great chestnuts made a 
resting-place in such upward wanderings as might be undertaken 
hy ladies and children on warm afternoons. Afterwards they 
had come to Paris, a city heloved by Lily, but less appreciated 
by Isabel, who in those days was constantly thinking of Rome. 
Mrs. Ludlow enjoyed Paris, but she was nevertheless somewhat 
disappointed and puzzled ; and after her husband had joined her 
she was in addition a good deal depressed at not being able to 
induce him to enter into these somewhat subtle and complex 
emotions. They all had Isabel for their object ; but Edmund 
Ludlow, as he had always done before, declined to be surprised, 
or distressed, or mystified, or elated, at anything his sister-in-law 
might have done or have failed to do. Mrs. Ludlow's feelings 
were various. At one moment she thought it would be so 
natural for Isabel to come home and take a house in New York 
— the Rossiters', for instance, which had an elegant conservatory, 
and was just round the comer from her own ; at another she 
could not conceal her surprise at the girl's not marrying some 
gentleman of rank in one of the foreign countries. On the 
whole, as I have said, she was rather disappointed. She had 
taken more satisfaction in Isabel's accession of fortune than if the 
money had been left to herself ; it had seemed to her to offer 
just the proper setting for her sister's slender but eminent figure. 
Isabel had developed less, however, than Lily had thought 
likely — development, to Lily's understanding, being somehow 
mysteriously connected with morning-calls and evening-parties. 
Intellectually, doubtless, she had made immense strides; but 
she appeared to have achieved few of those social conquests of 
which Mrs. Ludlow had expected to admire the trophies. Lily's 
conception of such achievements was extremely vague ; but this 



160 ^ THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

was exactly what she had expected of Isabel — to give it form 
and body. Isabel could have done as well as she had done in 
ITew York ; and Mrs. Ludlow appealed to her husband to know 
whether there was any privilege that she enjoyed in Europe 
which the society of that city might not offer her. We know, 
ourselves, that Isabel had made conquests — whether inferior or 
not to those she might have effected in her native land, it would 
be a delicate matter to decide ; and it is not altogether with a 
feeling of complacency that I again mention that she had not 
made these honourable victories public. She had not told her 
sister the history of Lord Warburton, nor had she given her a 
hint of Mr. Osmond's state of mind ; and she had no better 
reason for her silence than that she didn't wish to speak. It 
entertained her more to say nothing, and she had no idea of 
asking poor Lily's advice. But Lily knew nothing of these rich 
mysteries, and it is no wonder, therefore, that she pronounced her 
sister's career in Europe rather dull — an impression confirmed by 
the fact that Isabel's silence about Mr. Osmond, for instance, 
was in direct proportion to the frequency with which he occupied 
her thoughts. As this happened very often, it sometimes 
appeared to Mrs. Ludlow that her sister was really losing her 
gaiety. So very strange a result of so exhilarating an incident 
as inheriting a fortune was of course perplexing to the cheerful 
Lily ; it added to her general sense that Isabel was not at all 
like other people. 

Isabel's gaiety, however — superficially speaking, at least — 
exhibited itself rather more after her sister had gone home. She 
could imagine something more poetic than spending the winter 
in Paris — Paris was like smart, neat prose — and her frequent 
correspondence with Madame Merle did much to stimulate such, 
fancies. She had never had a keener sense of freedom, of the 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 161 

al3Solute l3oldness and wantonness of liberty, than' when she 
turned away from the platform at the Euston station, on one of 
the latter days of November, after the departure of the train 
which was to convey poor Lily, her husband, and her children, 
to their ship at LiverpooL It had been good for her to have 
them with her ; she was very conscious of that ; she was very 
observant, as we know, of what was good for her, and her effort 
was constantly to find something that was good enough. To 
profit by the present advantage till the latest moment, she had 
made the journey from Paris with the unenvied travellers. She 
would have accompanied them to Liverpool as well, only Edmund 
Ludlow had asked her, as a favour, not to do so ; it made Lily 
so fidgety, and she asked such impossible questions. Isabel 
watched the train move away ; she kissed her hand to the elder 
of her small nephews, a demonstrative child who leaned danger- 
ously far out of the window of the carriage and made separation 
an occasion of violent hilarity, and then she walked back into 
the foggy London street. The world lay before her — she could 
do whatever she chose. There was something exciting in the 
feeling, but for the present her choice was tolerably discreet ; 
she chose simply to walk back from Euston Square to her hotel. 
The early dusk of a November afternoon had already closed in ; 
the street-lamps, in the thick, brown air, looked weak and red ; 
our young lady was unattended, and Euston Square was a long 
way from Piccadilly. But Isabel performed the journey with a 
positive enjoyment of its dangers, and lost her way almost on 
purpose, in order to get more sensations, so that she was dis- 
appointed when an obliging policeman easily set her right again. 
She was so fond of the spectacle of human life that she enjoyed 
even the aspect of gathering dusk in the London streets — the 
moving crowds, the hurrying cabs, the lighted shops, the flaring 



152 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

stalls, the dark, shining dampness of everything. That evening, 
at her hotel, she wrote to Madame Merle that she should start in a 
day or two for Rome. She made her way down to Rome without 
touching at Florence — having gone first to Venice and then 
proceeded southward by Ancona. She accomplished this journey 
without other assistance than that of her servant, for her natural 
protectors were not now on the ground. Ralph Touchett was 
spending the winter at Corfu, and Miss Stackpole, in the 
September previous, had been recalled to America by/ a telegram 
from the Interviewer. This journal offered its brilliant corre- 
spondent a fresher field for her talents than the mouldering cities 
of Europe, and Henrietta was cheered on her way by a promise 
from Mr. Bantling that he would soon come over and see her. 
Isabel wrote to Mrs. Touchett to apologise for not coming just 
then to Florence, and her aunt replied characteristically enough. 
Apologies, Mrs. Touchett intimated, were of no more use than 
soap-bubbles, and she herself never dealt in such articles. One 
either did the thing or one didn't, and what one would have 
done belonged to the sphere of the irrelevant, like the idea of a 
future life or of the origin of things. Her letter was frank, hut 
(a rare case with Mrs. Touchett) it was not so frank as it seemed. 
She easily forgave her niece for not stopping at Florence, because 
she thought it was a sign that there was nothing going on with 
Gilbert Osmond. She watched, of course, to' see whether Mr. 
Osmond would now go to . Rome, and took some comfort in 
learning that he was not guilty of an absence. Isabel, on her 
side, had not been a fortnight in Rome before she proposed to 
Madame Merle that they should make a little pilgrimage to the 
East. Madame Merle remarked that her friend was restless, hut 
she added that she herself had always been consumed with the 
desire to visit Athens and Constantinople. The two ladies 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 153 

accordingly embarked on this expedition, and spent three months 
in Greece, in Turkey, in Egypt. Isabel found much to interest 
her in these countries, though Madame Merle continued to 
remark that even among the most classic sites, the scenes most 
calculated to suggest repose and reflection, her restlessness pre- 
vailed. Isabel travelled rapidly, eagerly, audaciously ; she was 
like a thirsty person draining cup after cup. Madame Merle, 
for the present, was a most efficient duenna. It was on Isabel's 
invitation she had come, and she imparted all necessary dignity 
to the girl's uncountenanced condition. She played her part 
with the sagacity that might have been expected of her ; she 
effaced herself, she accepted the position of a companion whose 
expenses were profusely paid. The situation, however, had no 
hardships, and people who met this graceful pair on their travels 
would not have been able to tell you which was the patroness 
and which the client. To say that Madame Merle improved on 
acquaintance would misrepresent the impression she made upon 
Isabel, who had thought her from the first a perfectly enlightened 
woman. At the end of an intimacy of three months Isabel felt 
that she knew her better ; her character had revealed itself, and 
Madame Merle had also at last redeemed her promise of relating 
her history from her own point of view — a consummation the 
more desirable as Isabel had already heard it related from the 
point of view of others. This history was so sad a one (in so 
far as it concerned the late M. Merle, an adventurer of the 
lowest class, who had taken advantage, years before, of her 
youth, and of an inexperience in which doubtless those who 
knew her only now would find it difficult to believe) ; it 
abounded so in startling and lamentable incidents, that Isabel 
wondered the poor lady had kept so much of her freshness, her 
interest in life. Into this freshness of Madame Merle's she 



154 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

obtained a considerable insight ; she saw that it was, after all, a 
tolerably artificial bloom. Isabel liked her as much as ever, but 
there was a certain comer of the curtain that never was lifted ; 
it was as if Madame Merle had remained after all a foreigner. 
She had once said that she came from a distance, that she 
belonged to the old world, and Isabel never lost the impression 
that she was the product of a different clime from her own, that 
she had grown up under other stars. Isabel believed that at 
bottom she had a different morality. Of course the morality 
of civilised persons has always much in common; but Isabel 
suspected that her friend had esoteric views. She believed, 
with the presumption of youth, that a morality which differed 
from her own must be inferior to it ; and this conviction was an 
aid to detecting an occasional flash of cruelty, an occasional lapse 
from candour, in the conversation of a woman who had raised 
delicate kindness to an art, and whose nature was too large for 
the narrow ways of deception. Her conception of human motives 
was different from Isabel's, and there were several in her list of 
which our heroine had not even heard. She had not heard of 
everything, that was very plain ; and there were evidently 
things in the world of which it was not advantageous to 
hear. Once or twice Isabel had a sort of fright, but the 
reader will be amused at the cause of it. Madame Merle, as we 
know, comprehended, responded, sympathised, with wonderful 
readiness; yet it had nevertheless happened that her young 
friend mentally exclaimed — " Heaven forgive her, she doesn't 
understand me ! " Absurd as it may seem, this discovery operated 
as a shock ; it left Isabel with a vague horror, in which there 
was even an element of forebodiug. The horror of course sub- 
sided, in the light of some sudden proof of Madame Merle's 
remarkable intelligence ; but it' left a sort of high-water-mark 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 155 

in the development of this delightful intimacy. Madame Merle 
had once said that, in her belief, when a friendship ceased to 
grow, it immediately began to decline — ^there was no point of 
equilibrium between liking a person more and liking him less. 
A stationary affection, in other words, was impossible — it must 
move one way or the other. Without estimating the value of 
this doctrine, I may say that if Isabel's imagination, which had 
hitherto been so actively engaged on her friend's behalf, began 
at last to languish, she enjoyed her society not a particle less 
than before. If their friendship had declined, it had declined 
to a very comfortable level. The truth is that in these days 
the girl had other uses for her imagination, which was better 
occupied than it- had ever been. I do not allude to the impulse 
it received as she gazed at the Pyramids in the course of an 
excursion from Cairo, or as she stood among the broken columns 
of the Acropolis and fixed her eyes upon the point designated 
to her as the Strait of Salamis ; deep and memorable as these 
emotions had been. She came back by the last of March from 
Egypt and Greece, and made another stay in Eome. A few 
days after her arrival Gilbert Osmond came down from Florence, 
and remained three weeks, during which the fact of her being 
with his old friend, Madame Merle, in whose house she had 
gone to lodge, made it virtually inevitable that he should see 
her every day. When the last of April came she wrote to Mrs. 
Touchett that she should now be very happy to accept an invit- 
ation given long before, and went to pay a visit at the Palazzo 
Crescentini, Madame Merle on this occasion remaining in Rome. 
Isabel found her aunt alone; her cousin was still at Corfu. 
Ralph, however, was expected in Florence from day to day, and 
Isabel, who had not seen him for upwards of a year, was prepared 
to give him the most affectionate welcome. 



3« THE POETEAIT OF A LADY. 



XITT, 

It was not of him, nevertheless, that she was thinking iwliile 
»\i(i nUMjil at the window, where we found her a while ago, and 
it wa8 not of any of the matters that I have just rapidly sketched. 
8he was not thinking of the past, hut of the future ; of the 
imme^liate, impending hour. She had reason to expect a scene, 
and she was not fond of scenes. She was not asking herself 
wlmt she should say to her visitor ; this question had already 
been answered. What he would say to her — that was the 
interesting speculation. It could be nothing agreeable ; Isabel 
was convinced of this, and the conviction had something to do 
with her being rather paler than usuaL For the rest, however, 
she wore her natural brightness of aspect ; even deep grief, with 
this vivid young lady, would have had a certain soft eflFulgence. 
Hlie had laid aside her mourning, but she was still very simply 
dressed, and as she felt a good deal older than she had done a 
year before, it is probable that to a certain extent she looked so. 
She was not left indefinitely to her apprehensions, for the servant 
at last came in and presented her a card. 

" Let the gentleman come in," said Isabel, who continued to 
gaze out of the window after the footman had retired. It was 
only when she had heard the door close behind the person who 
presuutly entered that she looked round. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 167 

Caspar Goodwood stood there — stood and received a moment, 
from head to foot, the bright, dry gaze with which she rather 
withheld than offered a greeting. Whether on his side Mr. 
Goodwood felt himself older than on the first occasion of our 
meeting him, is a point which we shall perhaps presently ascer- 
tain ; let me say meanwhile that to IsabeFs critical glance he 
showed nothing of the injury of time. Straight, strong, and 
fresh, there was nothing in his appearance that spoke posi- 
tively either of youth or of age ; he looked too deliberate, too 
serious to be young, and too eager, too active to be old. Old he 
would never be, and this would serve as a compensation for his 
never having known the age of chubbiness. Isabel perceived 
that his jaw had quite the same voluntary look that it had worn 
in earlier days; but she was prepared to admit that such a 
moment as the present was not a time for relaxation. He had 
the air of a man who had travelled hard ; he said nothing at 
first, as if he had been out of breath. This gave Isabel time to 
make a reflection. "Poor fellow," she mentally murmured, 
" what great things he is capable of, and what a pity that he 
should waste his splendid force ! What a pity, too, that one can't 
satisfy everybody ! '* It gave her time to do more — to say at 
the end of a minute, 

" I can't tell you how I hoped that you wouldn't come." 

" I have no doubt of that." And Caspar Goodwood looked 
about him for a seat. Not only had he come, but he meant to 
stay a little. 

" You must be very tired," said Isabel, seating herself, gener- 
ously, as she thought, to give him his opportunity. 

" No, I am not at all tired. Did you ever know me to be 
tired 1 " 

" Never ; I wish I had. When did you arrive here ? " 



158 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Last night, very late ; in a kind of snail-train they call the 
express. These Italian trains go at about the rate of an American 
funeral" 

"That is in keeping — you must have felt as if you were 
coming to a funeral/' Isabel said, forcing a smile, in order to 
offer such encouragement as she might to an easy treatment of 
their situation. She had reasoned out the matter elaborately; 
she had made it perfectly clear that she broke no faith, that she 
falsified no contract ; but for all this she was afraid of him. She 
was ashamed of her fear ; but she was devoutly thankful there 
was nothing else to be ashamed of. He looked at her with his 
stiff persistency — a persistency in which there was almost a want 
of tact ; especially as there was a dull dark beam in his eye 
which rested on her almost like a physical weight. 

" No, I didn't feel that ; because I couldn't * think of you as 
dead. I wish I could ! " said Caspar Groodwood, plainly. 

" I thank you immensely." 

'' I would rather think of you as dead than as married to 
another man." 

*' That is very selfish of you ! " Isabel cried, with the ardour 
of a real conviction. " If you are not happy yourself, others 
have a right to be." 

" Very likely it is selfish ; but I don't in the least mind your 
saying so. I don't mind anything you can say now — I don't 
feel it The cruellest things you could think of would be mere pin- 
pricks. After what you have done I shall never feel anything. 
I mean anything but that. That I shall feel all my life." 

Mr. GrOodwood made these detached assertions with a sort 
of dry deliberateness, in his hard, slow American tone, which 
flung no atmospheric colour over propositions intrinsically crude. 
The tone made Isabel angry rather than touched her ; but her 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 159 

anger perhaps was I'ortuuate, inasmuch as it gave her a further 
reason for controlling herself. It was under the pressure of this 
control that she said, after a little, irrelevantly, by way of 
answer to Mr. Goodwood's speech — " When did you leave New 
York 1 " 

He threw up his head a moment, as if he were calculating. 
" Seventeen days ago." 

"You must have travelled fast in spite of your slow 
trains." 

" I came as fast as I could. I would have come five days ago 
if I had been able." 

"It wouldn't have made any diflference, Mr. Goodwood," 
said Isabel, smiling. 

" Not to you — ^no. But to me." 

" You gain nothing that I see." 

" That is for me to judge ! " 

" Of course. To me it seems that you only torment yourself." 
And then, to change the subject, Isabel asked him if lie had 
seen Henrietta Stackpole. 

He looked as if he had not come from Boston to Florence to 
talk about Henrietta Stackpole ; but he answered distinctly 
enough, that this young lady had come to see him just before he 
left America. 

" She came to see you 1 " 

" Yes, she was in Boston, and she called at my ofl&ce. It was 
the day I had got your letter." 

" Did you tell her 1 " Isabel asked, with a certain anxiety. 

*' Oh no," said Caspar Goodwood, simply ; " I didn't want to. 
She will hear it soon enough ; she hears everything." 

" I shall write to her ; and then she will write to me and 
scold me," Isabel declared, trying to smile again. 



160 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



Caspar, however, remained sternly grave. "I guess shell 
come out," he said. 

" On purpose to scold me 1 " 

^* I don't know. She seemed to think she had not seen 
Europe thoroughly." 

" I am glad you tell me that," Isabel said. " I must prepare 
for her." 

Mr. Groodwood fixed his eyes for a moment on the floor ; then 
at last, raising them — " Does she know Mr. Osmond 1 " he 
asked. 

" A little. And she doesn't like him. But of course I don't 
marry to please Henrietta,** Isabel added. 

It would have been better for poor Caspar if she had tried 
a little more to gratify Miss Stackpole; but he did not say 
so; he only asked, presently, when her marriage would take 
place. 

" I don*t know yet. I can only say it will be soon. I have 
told no one but yourself and one other person — an old fidend 
of Mr. Osmond's." 

" Is it a. marriage your friends won't like 1 " Caspar Goodwood 
asked. 

" I really haven't an idea. As I say, I don't marry for my 
friends." 

He went on, making no exclamation, no comment, only asking 
questions. 

" What is Mr. Osmond? " 

" What is he ] Nothing at all but a very good man. He is 
not in business," said Isabel. " He is not rich ; he is not known 
for anything in particular." 

She disliked Mr. Goodwood's questions, but she said to hsr- 
self that she owed it to him to satisfy him as far as possible* 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 161 

The satisfaction poor Caspar exhibited was certainly small ; he 
sat very upright, gazing at her. 

" Where does he come from 1 " he went on. 

" From nowhere. He has spent most of his life in Italy." 

" You said in your letter that he was an American. Hasn't 
he a native place 1 " 

"Yes, but he has forgotten it. He left it as a small boy." 

" Has he never gone back ? " 

" Why should he go back 1 " Isabel asked, flushing a little, . 
and defensively. " He has no profession." 

^' He might have gone back for his pleasure. Doesn't he like 
the United States ] " 

" He doesn't know them. Then he is very simple — he con- 
tents himself with Italy." 

" With Italy and with you," said Mr. Goodwood, with gloomy 
plainness, and no appearance of trying to make an epigram. 
" What has he ever done ] " he added, abruptly. 

" That I should marry him 1 Nothing at all," Isabel replied, 
with a smUe that had gradually become a trifle defiant. " If he 
had done great things would you forgive me any better 1 Give 
me up, Mr. Goodwood ; I am marrying a nonentity. Don't try 
to take an interest in him ; you can't." 

" I can't appreciate him ; that's what you mean. And you 
don't mean in the least that he is a nonentity. You think he is 
a great man, though no one else thinks so." 

Isabel's colour deepened ; she thought this very clever of her 
companion, and it was certainly a proof of the clairvoyance of 
such a feeling as his. 

" Why do you always come back to what others think 1 I 
can't discuss Mr. Osmond with you." 

" Of course not," said Caspar, reasonably. 

VOL. IL M 



162 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

And he sat there with his air of stiff helplessness, as if not 
only this were true, hut there were nothing else that they might 
discuss. 

" You see how little you gain," Isahel broke out — " how little 
comfort or satisfaction I can give you." 

"I didn't expect you to give me much.** 

" I don*t understand, then, why you came.*' 

" I came because I wanted to see you once more — as you are." 

^* I appreciate that ; but if you had waited a while, sooner or 
later we should have been sure to meet, and our meeting would 
have been pleasanter for each of us than this.*' 

" Waited till after you are married ? That is just what I 
didn't want to do. You will be diflferent then.** 

" Not very. I shall still be a great friend of yours. You 
will see." 

" That will make it all the worse," said Mr. Goodwood, grimly. 

" Ah, you are unaccommodating ! I can't promise to dislike 
you, in order to help you to resign yourself.** 

" I shouldn't care if you did ! " 

Isabel got up, with a movement of repressed impatience, and 
walked to the window, where she remained a moment, looking 
out. When she turned round, her visitor was still motionless in 
his place. She came towards him again and stopped, resting 
her hand on the back of the chair she had just quitted. 

" Do you mean you came simply to look at me ] That's better 
for you, perhaps, than for me.** 

" I wished to hear the sound of your voice,*' said Caspar. 

" You have heard it, and you see it says nothing very sweet." 

" It gives me pleasure, all the same.** 

And with this he got up. 

She had felt pain and displeasure when she received that 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 163 

morning the note in which he told her that he was in Florence, 
and, with her permission, would come within an hour to see her. 
She had been vexed and distressed, though she had sent back word 
by his messenger that he might come when he would. She had 

• 

not been better pleased when she saw him ; his being there at 
all was so full of implication. It implied things she could never 
assent to — rights, reproaches, remonstrance, rebuke, the expecta- 
tion of making her change her purpose. These things, however, 
if implied, had not been expressed ; and now our young lady, 
strangely enough, began to resent her visitor's remarkable self- 
control. There was a dumb misery about him which irritated 
her ; there was a manly staying of his hand which made her 
heart beat faster. She felt her agitation rising, and she said to 
herself that she was as angry as a woman who had been in the 
wrong. She was not in the wrong ; she had fortimately not 
that bitterness to swallow; but, all the same, she wished he 
would denounce her a little. She had wished his visit woidd be 
short ; it had no purpose, no propriety ; yet now that he seemed 
to be turning away, she felt a sudden horror of his leaving her 
without uttering a word that would give her an opportunity to 
defend herself more than she had done in writing to him a 
month before, in a few carefully chosen words, to announce her 
engagement. If she were not in the wrong, however, why 
should she desire to defend herself 1 It was an excess of gener- 
osity on Isabel's part to desire that Mr. Goodwood should be 
angry. 

If he had not held himself hard it might have made him so to 
hear the tone in which she suddenly exclaimed, as if she were 
accusing him of having accused her, 

" I have not deceived you ! I was perfectly free ! " 

" Yes, I know that," said Caspar. 

M 2 



164 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" I gave you full warning that I would do as I chose." 

" You said you would probably never marry, and you said it 
so positively that I pretty well believed it." 

Isabel was silent an instant. 

" No one can be more surprised than myself at my present 
intention." 

" You told me that if I heard you wer6 engaged, I was not to 
believe it," Caspar went on. " I heard it twenty days ago from 
yourself, but I remembered what you had said. I thought there 
might be some mistake, and that is partly why I came." 

" If you wish me to repeat it by word of mouth, that is soon 
done. There is no mistake, at alL" 

" I saw that as soon as I came into the room." 

" What good would it do you that I shouldn't marry 1 " Isabel 
asked, with a certain fierceness. 

" I should like it better than this." 

** You are very selfish, as I said before." 

"I know that. I am selfish as iron." 

" Even iron sometimes melts. If you will be reasonable I 
will see you again." 

" Don't you call me reasonable now 1 " 

"I don't know what to say to you," she answered, with 
sudden humility. 

" I sha'n't trouble you for a long time," the young man went 
on. He made a step towards the door, but he stopped. ** An- 
other reason why I came was that I wanted to hear what you 
would say in explanation of your having changed your mind." 

Isabel's humbleness as suddenly deserted her. 

** In explanation 1 Do you think I am bound to explain 1 " 

Caspar gave her one of his long dumb looks. 

" You were very positive. I did believe it." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 166 

" So did I. Do you think I could explain if I would 1 " 

" No, I suppose not. Well," he added, " I have done what I 
wished. I have seen you." 

"How little you make of these terrible journeys," Isabel 
murmured. 

" If you are afraid I am tired, you may be at your ease about 
that." He turned away, this time in earnest, and no hand- 
shake, no sign of parting, was exchanged between them. At 
the door he stopped, with his hand on the knob. ** I shall 
leave Florence to-morrow," he said. 

"I am delighted to hear it ! " she answered, passionately. 
And he went out. Five minutes after he had gone she burst 
into tears. 



166 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



XIV. 

Her fit of weeping, however, was of brief duration, and the 
signs of it had vanished when, an hour later, she broke the news 
to her aunt. I use this expression because she had been sure 
Mrs. Touchett would not be pleased ; Isabel had only waited 
to tell her till she had seen Mr. Goodwood. She had aji odd 
impression that it would not be honourable to make the fact 
public before she should have heard what Mr. Goodwood "would 
say about it. He had said rather less than she expected, and 
she now had a somewhat angry sense of having lost time. But 
she would lose no more; she waited till Mrs. Touchett came 
into the drawing-room before the mid-day breakfast, and then 
she said to her — 

" Aunt Lydia, I have something to tell you." 

Mrs. Touchett gave a little jump and looked at the girl almost 
fiercely. 

" You needn't tell me ; I know what it is." 

" I don't know how you know." 

" The same way that I know when the window is open — by 
feeling a draught. You are going to marry that man." 

"What man do you meani" Isabel inquired, with great 
dignity. 

" Madame Merle's friend — Mr. Osmond." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 167 

" I don't know why you call him Madame Merle's friend. Is 
that the principal thing he is known by 1 " 

" If he is not her friend he ought to be — after what she has 
done for him ! " cried Mrs. Touchett. " I shouldn't have 
expected it of her; I am disappointed." 

" If you mean that Madame Merie has had anything to do 
with my engagement you are greatly mistaken," Isabel declared, 
with a sort of ardent coldness. 

" You mean that your attractions were sufficient, without 
the gentleman being urged? You are quite right. They are 
immense, your attractions, and he would never have presumed 
to think of you if she had not put him up to it. He has a very 
good opinion of himself, but he was not a man to take trouble. 
Madame Merle took the trouble for him." 

" He has taken a great deal for himself ! " cried Isabel, with a 
voluntary laugh. 

Mrs. Touchett gave a sharp nod. 

" I think he must, after all, to have made you like himu" 

" I thought you liked him yourself." 

" I did, and that is why I am angry with him." 

" Be angry with me, not with him," said the girl. 

"Oh, I am always angry with you; that's no satisfaction! 
Was it for this that you refused Lord Warburton 1 " 

" Please don't go back to that. Why shouldn't I like Mr. 
Osmond, since you did 1 " 

** I never wanted to marry him ; there is nothing of him." 

** Then he can't hurt me," said Isabel. 

"Do you think you are going to be happy? No one is 
happy." 

" I shaU set the fashion then. What does one marry for ? " 

"What you will marry for, heaven only knows. People 



168 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

usually marry as they go into partnership — to set up a house. 
But in your partnership you will bring everything." 

" Is it that Mr. Osmond is not rich 1 Is that what -you are 
talking about 1 " Isabel asked. 

'^ He has no money ; he has no name ; he has no importance. 
I value such things and I have the courage to say it ; I think 
they are very precious. Many other people think the same, and 
they show it. But they give some other reason ! " 

Isabel hesitated a little. 

" I think I value everything that is valuable. I care very much 
for money, and that is why I wish Mr. Osmond to have some." 

" Give it to him, then ; but marry some one else." 

" His name is good enough for me," the girl went on. " It's 
a very pretty name. Have I such a fine one myself 1 " 

"AU the more reason you should improve on it. There are 
only a dozen American names. Do you marry him out of 
charity r* 

" It was my duty to tell you, Aunt Lydia, but I don't think 
it is my duty to explain to you. Even if it were, I shouldn't 
be able. So please don't remonstrate ; in talking about it you 
have me at a disadvantage. I can't talk about it." 

"I don't remonstrate, I simply answer you; I must give 
some sign of intelligence. I saw it coming, and I said nothing. 
I never meddle." 

" You never do, and I am greatly obliged to you. You have 
been very considerate." 

"It was not considerate — it was convenient," said Mrs. 
Touchett. " But I shall talk to Madame Merle." 

" I don't see why you keep bringing her in. She has been a 
very good friend to me." 

" Possibly ; but she has been a poor one to me." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 169 

" What has she done to you 1 " 

" She has deceived me. She had as good as promised me to 
prevent your engagement." 

" She couldn't have prevented it." 

" She can do anything ; that is what I have always liked her 
for. I knew she could play any part ; but I understood that 
she played them one by one. I didn't understand that she 
would play two at the same time." 

" I don't know what part she may have played to you," Isabel 
said ; " that is between yourselves. To me she has been honest, 
and kind, and devoted." 

" Devoted, of course ; she wished you to marry her candidate. 
She told me that she was watching you only in order to interpose." 

" She said that to please you," the girl answered ; conscious, 
however, of the inadequacy of the explanation. 

" To please me by deceiving me 1 She knows me better. Am 
I pleased to-day 1 " 

" I don't think you are ever much pleased," Isabel was 
obliged to reply. " If Madame Merle knew you would learn 
the truth, what had she to gain by insincerity 1 " 

" She gained time, as you see. While I waited for her to 
interfere you were marching away, and she was really beating 
the drum." 

" That is very well But by your own admission you saw I 
was marching, and even if she had given the alarm you would 
not have tried to stop me." 

" No, but some one else would." 

" Whom do you mean ] " Isabel asked, looking very hard at 
her aunt. 

Mrs. Touchett's little bright eyes, active as they usually were, 
sustained her gaze rather than returned it. 



170 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



" Would you have listened to Ealph 1 " 

" Not if he had abused Mr. Osmond." 

" Ralph doesn't abuse people ; you know that perfectly. He 
cares very much for you.** 

" I know he does,'* said Isabel ; " and I shall feel the value 
of it now, for he knows that whatever I do I do with 



reason.** 



" He never believed you would do this. I told him you were 
capable of it, and he argued the other way.** 

'* He did it for the sake of argument,** said Isabel, smiling. 
" You don*t accuse him of having deceived you ; why sboold 
you accuse Madame Merle 1 '* 

" He never pretended he would prevent it.** 

" I am glad of that 1 ** cried the girl, gaily. " I wish very 
much,** she presently added, " that when he comes you would 
tell him first of my engagement.** 

" Of course I will mention it,'* said Mrs. Touchett. ** I will 
say nothing more to you about it, but I give you notice I will 
talk to others." 

" That*s as you please. I only meant that it is rather better 
the announcement should come from you than from me." 

" I quite agree with you ; it is much more proper ! ** 

And on this the two ladies went to breakfast, where Mrs. 
Touchett was as good as her word, and made no allusion to 
Gilbert Osmond. After an interval of silence, however, she 
asked her companion from whom she had received a visit an 
hour before. 

** From an old friend — an American gentleman,*' Isabel said, 
with a colour in her cheek. 

" An American, of course. It is only an American that calls 
at ten o*clock in the morning." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 171 

" It was half-past ten ; he was in a great hurry ; he goes 
away this evening." 

" Couldn't he have come yesterday, at the usual time 1 '* 

" He only arrived last night." 

" He spends but twenty-four hours in Florence?" Mrs. 
Touchett cried. " He's an American truly." 

** He is indeed," said Isabel, thinking with a perverse admuv 
ation of what Caspar Goodwood had done for her. 

Two days afterward Ealph arrived; but though Isabel was 
sure that Mrs. Touchett had lost no time in telling him the 
news, he betrayed at first no knowledge of the great fact. Their 
first talk was naturally about his health ; Isabel had many ques- 
tions to ask about Corfu. She had been shocked by his appear- 
ance when he came into the room ; she had forgotten how ill he 
looked. In spite of Corfu, he looked very ill to-day, and Isabel 
wondered whether he were really worse or whether she was 
simply disaccustomed to living with an invalid. Poor Ealph 
grew no handsomer as he advanced in life, and the now ap- 
parently complete loss of his health had done little to mitigate 
the natural oddity of his person. His face wore its pleasant 
perpetual smile, which perhaps suggested wit rather than achieved 
it ; his thin whisker languished upon a lean cheek ; the exor- 
bitant curve of his nose defined itself more sharply. Lean he 
was altogether ; lean and long and loose-jointed ; an accidental 
cohesion of relaxed angles. His brown velvet jacket had 
become perennial ; his hands had fixed themselves in his 
pockets ; he shambled, and stumbled, and shuffled, in a manner 
that denoted great physical helplessness. It was perhaps this 
whimsical gait that helped to mark his character more than 
ever as that of the humorous invalid — the invalid for whom 
even his own disabilities are part of the general joke. They 



172 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

might well indeed with Ealph have been the chief cause of 
the want of seriousness with which he appeared to regard a 
world in which the reason for his own presence was past 
finding out. Isabel had grown fond of his ugliness; his 
awkwardness had become dear to her. These things were 
endeared by association; they struck her as the conditions of 
his being so charming. Ealph was so charming that her sense 
of his being ill had hitherto had a sort of comfort in it; the 
state of his health had seemed not a limitation, but a kind of 
intellectual advantage; it absolved him from all professional 
and official emotions and left him the luxury of being simply 
personal. This personality of Ealph's was delightful ; it had 
none of the staleness of disease ; it was always easy and fresh 
and genial. Such had been the girl's impression of her cousin ; 
and when she had pitied him it was only on reflection. As she 
reflected a good deal she had given him a certain amount of 
compassion ; but Isabel always had a dread of wasting compassion 
— a precious article, worth more to the giver than to any one else. 
Now, however, it took no great ingenuity to discover that poop 
Ealph's tenure of life was less elastic than it should be. He was 
a dear, bright, generous fellow ; he had all the illumination of 
wisdom and none of its pedantry, and yet he was dying. Isabel 
said to herself that life was certainly hard for some people, and 
she felt a delicate glow of shame as she thought how easy it now 
promised to become for herself. She was prepared to learn that 
Ealph was not pleased with her engagement ; but she was not pre- 
pared, in spite of her affection for her cousin, to let this fact spoil 
the situation. She was not even prepared — or so she thought — 
to resent his want of sympathy ; for it would be his privilege — 
it would be indeed his natural line — ^to find fault with any step 
she might take toward marriage. One's cousin always pretended 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 173 

to hate one's husband ; that was traditional, classical ; it was a 
part of one's cousin's always pretending to adore one. Ralph was 
nothing if not critical ; and though she would certainly, other 
things being equal, have been as glad to marry to please Ealph 
as to please any one, it would be absurd to think it important 
that her choice should square with his views. What were his 
views, after alii He had pretended to think she had better 
marry Lord Warburton ; but this was only because she had re- 
fused that excellent man. If she had accepted him Ralph would 
certainly have taken another tone ; he always took the opposite 
one. You could criticise any marriage ; it was of the essence of 
a marriage to be open to criticism. How well she herself, if she 
would only give her mind to it, might criticise this imion of 
her own ! She had other employment, however, and Ralph was 
welcome to relieve her of the care. Isabel was prepared to be 
wonderfully good-humoured. 

He must have seen that, and this made it the more odd that 
he should say nothing. After three days had elapsed without 
his speaking, Isabel became impatient; dislike it as he would, 
he might at least go through the form. We who know more 
about poor Ralph than his cousin, may easily believe that during 
the hours that foUowed his arrival at the Palazzo Crescentini, 
he had privately gone through many forms. His mother had 
literally greeted him with the great news, which was even more 
sensibly chilling than Mrs. Touchett's matenial kiss. Ralph 
was shocked and humiliated ; his calculations had been false, 
and his cousin was lost. He drifted about the house like a 
rudderless vessel in a rocky stream, or sat in the garden of the 
palace in a great cane chair, with his long legs extended, his 
head thrown back, and his hat pulled over his eyes. He felt 
cold about the heart ; he had never liked anything less. What 



174 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

could he do, what could he say ] If Isabel were irreclaimable, 
could he pretend to like it? To attempt to reclaim her was 
permissible only if the attempt should succeed. To try to per- 
suade her that the man to whom she had pledged her faith was 
a humbug would be decently discreet only in the event of her 
being persuaded. Otherwise he should simply have damned 
himself. It cost him an equal effort to speak his thought and 
to dissemble ; he could neither assent with sincerity nor protest 
with hope. Meanwhile he knew — or rather he supposed — ^that 
the affianced pair were daily renewing their mutual vows. 
Osmond, at this moment, showed himself little at the Palazzo 
Crescentini; but Isabel met him every day elsewhere, as she 
was free to do after their engagement had been made public. 
She had taken a carriage by the month, so as not to be indebted 
to her aunt for the means of pursuing a course of which Mrs. 
Touchett disapproved, and she drove in the morning to the 
Cascine. This suburban wilderness, during the early hou^, was 
void of all intruders, and our young lady, joined by her lover in 
its quietest part, strolled with him a while in the grey Italian 
shade and listened to the nightingales. 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 175 



XV. 

One morning, on her return from her drive, some half-hour 
before luncheon, she quitted her vehicle in the court of the 
palace, and instead of ascending the great staircase, crossed the 
court, passed beneath another archway, and entered the garden. 
A sweeter spot, at this moment, could not have been imagined. 
The stillness of noontide hung over it ; the warm shade was 
motionless, and the hot light made it pleasant. Ealphwas 
sitting there in the clear gloom, at the base of a statue of 
Terpsichore — a dancing nymph with taper fingers and inflated 
draperies, in the manner of Bernini ; the extreme relaxation of 
his attitude suggested at first to Isabel that he was asleep. Her 
light footstep on the grass had not roused him, and before turn- 
ing away she stood for a moment looking at him. During this 
instant he opened his eyes ; upon which she sat down on a rustic 
chair that matched with his own. Though in her irritation she 
had accused him of indifference, she was not blind to the fact 
that he was visibly preoccupied. But she had attributed his 
long reveries partly to the languor of his increased weakness, 
partly to his being troubled about certain arrangements he had 
made as to the property inherited from his father — arrangements 
of which Mrs. Touchett disapproved, and which, as she had told 
Isabel, now encountered opposition from the other partners in 



176 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

the bank. He ought to have gone to England, his mother said, 
instead of coming to Florence ; he had not been there for months, 
and he took no more interest in the bank than in the state of 
Patagonia. 

" I am Sony I waked yon," Isabel said ; " yon look tired." 

"I feel tired. But I was not asleep. I was thinking of 
you." 

" Are you tired of that 1 " 

" Very much so. It leads to nothing. The road is long and 
I never arrive." 

"What do you wish to arrive atl" Isabel said, closing her 
parasoL 

" At the point of expressing to myself properly what I think 
of your engagement." 

" Don't think too much of it," said Isabel, lightly. 

" Do you mean that it's none of my business 1 " 

" Beyond a certain point, yes." 

" That's the point I wish to fix. I had an idea that you have 
found me wanting in good manners ; I have never congratulated 
you." 

" Of course I have noticed that ; I wondered why you were 
silent." 

"There have been a good many reasons; I will tell you 
now," said Ealph. 

He pulled off his hat and laid it on the ground ; then he sat 
looking at her. He leaned back, with his head against the 
marble pedestal of Terpsichore, his arms dropped on either side 
of him, his hands laid upon the sides of his wide chair. He 
looked awkward, uncomfortable ; he hesitated for a long time. 
Isabel said nothing; when people were embarrassed she was 
usually sorry for them; but she was determined not to help 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 177 

Ealph to utter a word that should not be to the honour of her 
ingenious purpose. 

" I think I have hardly got over my surprise," he said at last. 
" You were the last person I expected to see caught." 

" I don't know why you call it caught." 

" Because you are going to be put into a cage." 

" If I like my cage, that needn't trouble you," said Isabel. 

"That's what I wonder at; that's what I have been thinking of." 

" If you have been thinking, you may imagine how I have 
thought ! I am satisfied that I am doing well." 

" You must have changed immensely. A year ago you 
valued your liberty beyond everything. You wanted only to 
see life," 

" I have seen it," said Isabel " It doesn't seem to me so 
charming." 

" I don't pretend it is ; only I had an idea that you took a 
genial view of it and wanted to survey the whole field." 

'' I have seen that one can't do that. One must choose a 
corner and cultivate that." 

" That's what I think. And one must choose a good comer. 
I had no idea, all winter, while I read your delightful letters 
that you were choosing. You said nothing about it, and your 
silence put me off my guard." 

"It was not a matter I was likely to write to you about. 
Besides, I knew nothing of the future. It has all come lately. 
If you had been on your guard, however," Isabel asked, " what 
would you have done 1 " 

" I should have said — * Wait a little longer.' " 

« Wait for what ] " 

"Well, for a little more light," said Ralph, with a rather 
absurd smile, while his hands found their way into his pockets. 

VOL. n. N 



178 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Where should my light have come from ] From you 1 " 
** I might have struck a spark or two ! " 
Isabel had drawn off her gloves ; she smoothed them out as 
they lay upon her knee. The gentleness of this movement was 
accidental, for her expression was not conciliatory. 

" You are beating about the bush, Ealph. You wish to say- 
that you don't like Mr. Osmond, and yet you are afraid." 

" I am afraid of you, not of him. If you marry him it won't 
be a nice thing to have said." 

" TjT I marry him ! Have you had any expectation of dissuad- 
ing me 1 " 

" Of course that seems to you too fatuous." 

" No," said Isabel, after a little ; " it seems to me touching." 

'^ That's the same thing. It makes me so ridiculous that you 
pity me." 

Isabel stroked out her long gloves again. 

" I know you have a great affection for me. I can't get rid of 
that." 

" For heaven's sake don't try. Keep that well in sight. It 
will convince you how intensely I want you to do welL" 

" And how little you trust me ! " 

There was a moment's silence ; the warm noon-tide seemed to 
listen. 

" I trust you, but I don't trust him," said Ralph. 

Isabel raised her eyes and gave him a wide, deep look. 

"You have said it now; you will suffer for it." 

*^ Not if you are just." 

" I am very just," said Isabel " What better proof of it can 
there be than that I am not angry with you 1 I don't know 
what is the matter with me, but I am not. I was when you 
began, but it has passed away. Perhaps I ought to be angry, 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 179 

but Mr. Osmond wouldn't think so. He wants me to know 
everything ; that's what I like him for. You have nothing to 
gain, I know that. I have never been so nice to you, as a girl, 
that you should have much reason for wishing me to remain one. 
You give very good advice ; you have often done so. No, I am 
very quiet; I have always believed in your wisdom," Isabel 
went on, boasting of her quietness, yet speaking with a kind of 
contained exaltation. It was her passionate desire to be just; 
it touched Ralph to the heart, affected him like a caress from a 
creature he had injured. He wished to interrupt, to reassure 
her ; for a moment he was absurdly inconsistent ; he would have 
retracted what he had said. But she gave him no chance ; she 
went on, having caught a glimpse, as she thought, of ^the heroic 
line, and desiring to advance in that direction. " I see you have 
got some idea ; I should like very much to hear it. I am sure 
it's disinterested ; I feel that. It seems a strange thing to argue 
about, and of course I ought to tell you definitely that if you 
expect to dissuade me you may give it up. You will not move 
me at all ; it is too late. As you say, I am caught. Certainly 
it won't be pleasant for you to remember this, but your pain 
will be in your own thoughts. I shall never reproach 
you." 

" I don't think you ever will," said Ealph. " It is not in the 
least the sort of marriage I thought you would make." 

** What sort of marriage was that, pray ] " 

" Well, I can hardly say. I hadn't exactly a positive view 
of it, but I had a negative. I didn't think you would marry a 
man like Mr. Osmond." 

" What do you know against him] You know him scarcely 
at all." 

"Yes," Ralph said, "I know him very little, and I know 

N 2 



180 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



nothing against him. But all the same I can't help feeling that 
you are running a risk." 

'^ Marriage is always a risk, and his risk is as great as. 



mine." 



" That's his affair ! If he is afraid, let him recede ; I wish 
he would." 

Isahel leaned back in her chair, folded her arms, and gazed a 
while at her cousin. 

" I don't think I understand you," she said at last, coldly. 
" I don't know what you are talking about." 

" I thought you would marry a man of more importance." 

Cold, I say, her tone had been, but at this a colour like a 
flame leaped into her face. 

" Of more importance to whom 1 It seems to me enough that 
one's husband should be important to one's self ! " 

Ralph blushed as well ; his attitude embarrassed him. Physic- 
ally speaking, he proceeded to change it ; he straightened him- 
self, then leaned forward, resting a hand on each knee. He 
fixed his eyes on the ground ; he had an air of the most respectful 
deliberation. 

" I will tell you in a moment what I mean," he presently 
said. He felt agitated, intensely eager ; now that he had opened 
the discussion he wished to discharge his mind. But he wished 
also to be superlatively gentle. 

Isabel waited a little, and then she went on, with majesty. 

" In everything that makes one care for people, Mr. Osmond 
is pre-eminent. There may be nobler natures, but I have never 
had the pleasure of meeting one. Mr. Osmond is the best I 
know ; he is important enough for me." 

" I had a sort of vision of your future," Ralph said, without 
answering this ; " I amused myself with planning out a kind of 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 181 

destiny for you. There was to be nothing of this sort in it. 
You were not to come down so easily, so soon." 

"To come down] What strange expressions you use! Is 
that your description of my marriage ? " 

" It expresses my idea of it. You seemed to me to be soaring 
far up in the blue — to be sailing in the bright light, over the 
heads of men. Suddenly some one tosses up a faded rosebud — 
a missile that should never have reached you — and down you 
drop to the ground. It hurts me," said Ealph, audaciously, " as 
if I had fallen myself ! " 

The look of pain and bewilderment deepened in his com- 
panion's face. 

" I don't understand you in the least," she repeated. " You 
say you amused yourself with planning out my future — I don't 
understand that. Don't amuse yourself too much, or I shall 
think you are doing it at my expense." 

Ealph shook his head. 

" I am not afraid of your not believing that' I have had great 
ideas for you." 

** What do you mean by my soaring and sailing 1" the girl 
asked. " I have never moved on a higher line than I am moving 
on now. There is nothing higher for a girl than to marry a — a 
person she likes," said poor Isabel, wandering into the didactic. 

" It's your liking the person we speak of that I venture to 
criticise, my dear Isabel ! I should have said that the man for 
you would have been a more active, larger, freer sort of nature." 
Ealph hesitated a moment, then he added, " I can't get over the 
belief that there's something small in Osmond." 

He had uttered these last words with a tremor of the voice ; 
he was afraid that she would flash out again. But to his surprise 
she was quiet ; she had the air of considering. 



182 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Something small] " she said reflectively. 

** I think he's narrow, selfish. He takes himself so seriously !" 

" He has a great respect for himself ; I don't blame him for 
that," said Isabel " It's the proper way to respect others." 

Ealph for a moment felt almost reassured by her reasonable 
tone. 

"Yes, but everything is relative; one ought to feel one's 
relations. I don't think Mr. Osmond does that." 

" I have chiefly to do with the relation in which he stands to 
me. In that he is excellent." 

" He is the incarnation of taste," Ealph went on, thinking 
hard how he could best express Gilbert Osmond's sinister attri- 
butes without putting himself in the wrong by seeming to 
describe him coarsely. He wished to describe him impersonaUy, 
scientifically. " He judges and measures, approves and condemns 
altogether by that." 

" It is a happy thing then that his tastes should be exquisite." 

" It is exquisite, indeed, since it has led him to select you 
as his wife. But have you ever seen an exquisite taste 
ruffled 1 " 

" I hope it may never be my fortune to fail to gratify my 
husband's." 

At these words a sudden passion leaped to Ralph's lips. "Ah, 
that's wilful, that's unworthy of you ! " he cried. " You were 
not meant to be measured in that way — you were meant for 
something better than to keep guard over the sensibilities of a 
sterile dilettante ! " 

Isabel rose quickly and Ralph did the same, so that they stood 
for a moment looking at each other as if he had flung down a 
defiance or an insult. 

*^ You go too far," she murmured. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 183 

" I have said what I had on my mind — and I have said it 
because I love you ! " 

Isabel turned pale : was he too on that tiresome list ) She 
had a sudden wish to strike him off. "Ah then, you are not 
disinterested ! " 

" I love you, but I love without hope," said Ealph, quickly, 
forcing a smile, and feeling that in that last declaration he had 
expressed more than he intended. 

Isabel moved away and stood looking into the sunny stillness 
of the garden ; but after a little she turned back to him. " I 
am afraid your talk, then, is the wildness of despair. I don't 
understand it — ^but it doesn't matter. I am not arguing with 
you ; it is impossible that I should ; I have only tried to listen 
to you. I am much obliged to you for attempting to explain," 
she said gently, as if the anger with which she had just sprung 
up had already subsided. "It is very good of you to try to 
warn me, if you are really alarmed. But I won't promise to 
think of what you have said ; I shall forget it as soon as possible. 
Try and forget it yourself; you have done your duty, and no 
man can do more. I can't explain to you what I feel, what I 
believe, and I wouldn't if I could." She paused a moment, and 
then she went on, with an inconsequence that Ealph observed 
even in the midst of his eagerness to discover some symptom of 
concession. " I can't enter into your idea of Mr. Osmond ; I 
can't do it justice, because I see him in quite another way. He 
is not important — ^no, he is not important ; he is a man to whom 
importance is supremely indifferent. If that is what you mean 
when you call him * small,' then he is as small as you please. I 
call that large — ^it's the largest thing I know. I won't pretend 
to argue with you about a person I am going to marry," Isabel 
repeated. "I am not in the least concerned to defend Mr. 



184 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Osmond ; he is not so weak as to need my defence. I should 
think it would seem strange, even to yourself, that I should talk 
of him so quietly and coldly, as if he were any one else. I would 
not talk of him at all, to any one but you ; and you, after what 
you have said — I may just answer you once for all. Pray, would 
you wish me to make a mercenary marriage — what they call a 
marriage of ambition 1 I have only one ambition — ^to be free to 
follow out a good feeling. I had others once ; but they have 
passed away. Do you complain of Mr. Osmond because he is 
not rich 1 That is just what I like him for. I have fortunately 
money enough ; I have never felt so thankful for it as to-day. 
There have been moments when I should like to go and kneel 
down by your father's grave ; he did perhaps a better thing than 
he knew when he put it into my power to marry a poor man — a 
man who has borne his poverty with such dignity, with such 
indifference. Mr. Osmond has never scrambled nor struggled — 
he has cared for no worldly prize. If that is to be narrow, if 
that is to be selfish, then it*s very well. I am not frightened by 
such words, I am not even displeased ; I am only sorry that you 
should make a mistake. Others might have done so, but I am 
surprised that you should. You might know a gentleman when 
you see one — ^you might know a fine mind. Mr. Osmond makes 
no mistakes ! He knows everything, he understands everything, 
he has the kindest, gentlest, highest spirit. You have got hold 
of some false idea ; it's a pity, but I can't help it ; it regards you 
more than me." Isabel paused a moment, looking at her cousin 
with an eye illuminated by a sentiment which contradicted the 
careful calmness of her manner — a mingled sentiment, to which 
the angry pain excited by his words and the wounded pride of 
having needed to justify a choice of which she felt only the 
jiobleness and purity, equally contributed. Though she paused^ 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 185 



Ralph said nothing ; he saw she had more to say. She was 
superb, but she was eager; she was indifferent, but she was 
secretly trembling. " What sort of a person should you have 
liked me to marry 1 " she asked, suddenly. " You talk about 
one's soaring and sailing, but if one marries at all one touches 
the earth. One has human feelings and needs, one has a heart 
in one's bosom, and one must marry a particular individual. 
Your mother has never forgiven me for not having come to a 
better understanding with Lord Warburton, and she is horrified 
at my contenting myself with a person who has none of Lord 
Warburton's great advantages — ^no property, no title, no honours, 
no houses, nor lands, nor position, nor reputation, nor brilliant 
belongings of any sort. It is the total absence of all these 
things that pleases me. Mr. Osmond is simply a man — he is 
not a proprietor ! " 

Ralph had listened with great attention, as if everything she 
said merited deep consideration ; but in reality he was only half 
thinking of the things she said, he was for the rest simply 
accommodating himself to the weight of his total impression — 
the impression of her passionate good faith. She was wrong, 
but she believed ; she was deluded, but she was consistent. It 
was wonderfully characteristic of her that she had invented a 
fine theory about Gilbert Osmond, and loved him, not for what 
he really possessed, but for his very poverties dressed out as 
honours. Ralph remembered what he had said to his father 
about wishing to put it into Isabel's power to gratify her imagin- 
ation. He had done so, and the girl had taken full advantage 
of the privilege. Poor Ralph felt sick ; he felt ashamed. Isabel 
had uttered her last words with a low solemnity of conviction 
which virtually terminated the discussion, and she closed it 
formally by turning away and walking back to the house. 



186 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Ealph walked beside her, and they passed into the court to- 
gether and reached the big staircase. Here Ealph stopped, and 
Isabel paused, turning on him a face full of a deep elation at 
his opposition having made her own conception of her conduct 
more clear to her. 

" Shall you not come up to breakfast 1 " she asked. 

" No ; I want no breakfast, I am not hungry." 

" You ought to eat," said the girl ; " you live on air." 

" I do, very much, and I shall go back into the garden and 
take another mouthful of it. I came thus far simply to say thi& 
I said to you last year that if you were to get into trouble I 
should feel terribly sold. That's how I feel to-day." 

" Do you think I am in trouble 1 " 

" One is in trouble when one is in error." 

"Yery well," said Isabel; "I shall never complain of my 
trouble to you ! " And she moved up the staircase. 

Kalph, standing there with his hands in his pockets, followed 
her with his eyes; then the lurking chill of the high-walled 
court struck him and made him shiver, so that he returned to 
the garden, to breakfast on thd Florentine sunshine. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 187 



XYI. 



Isabel, when she strolled in the Cascine with her lover, felt 
no impulse to tell him that he was not thought well of at the 
Palazzo Crescentini The discreet opposition offered to her 
marriage hy her aunt and her cousin made on the whole 
little impression upon her ; the moral of it was simply that they 
disliked Gilbert Osmond. This dislike was not alarming to 
Isabel; she scarcely even regretted it; for it served mainly to 
throw into higher relief the fact, in every way so honourable, that 
she married to please herself. One did other things to please 
other people ; one did this for a more personal satisfaction ; and 
Isabel's satisfaction was confirmed by her lover's admirable good 
conduct. Gilbert Osmond was in love, and he had never 
deserved less than during these still, bright days, each of them 
numbered, which preceded the fulfilment of his hopes, the harsh 
criticism passed upon him by Ealph Touchett. The chief 
impression produced upon Isabel's mind by this criticism was 
that the passion of love separated its victim terribly from every 
one but the loved object. She felt herself disjoined from every 
one she had ever known before — from her two sisters, who wrote 
to express a dutiful hope that she would be happy, and a sur- 
prise, somewhat more vague, at her not having chosen a consort 
who was the hero of a richer accumulation of anecdote ; from 



188 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Henrietta, who, she" was sure, would come out, too late, on pur- 
pose to remonstrate ; from Lord Warburton, who would certainly 
console himself, and from Caspar Goodwood, who perhaps would 
not ; from her aunt, who had cold, shallow ideas about marriage, 
for which she was not sorry to manifest her contempt ; and from 
Ralph, whose talk about having great views for her was surely 
but a whimsical cover for a personal disappointment. Kalph 
apparently wished her not to marry at all — that was what it 
really meant — ^because he was amused with the spectacle of her 
adventures as a single woman. His disappointment made him ^ 
say angry things about the man she had preferred even to him : 
Isabel flattered herself that she believed Ealph had been angry. 
It was the more easy for her to believe this, because, as I say, 
she thought on the whole but little about it, and accepted as an 
incident of her lot the idea that to prefer Gilbert Osmond as she 
preferred him was perforce to break all other ties. She tasted of 
the sweets of this preference, and they made her feel that there 
was after all something very invidious in being in love ; much 
as the sentiment was theoretically approved of. It was the 
tragical side of happiness ; one's right was always made of the 
wrong of some one else. Gilbert Osmond was not demonstra- 
tive ; the consciousness of success, which must now have flamed 
high within him, emitted very little smoke for so brilliant a 
blaze. Contentment, on his part, never took a vulgar form; 
excitement, in the most self-conscious of men, was a kind of 
ecstasy of self-controL This disposition, however, made him an 
admirable lover; it gave him a constant view of the amorous 
character. He never forgot himself, as I say ; and so he never 
forgot to be graceful and tender, to wear the appearance of 
devoted intention. He was immensely pleased with his young 
lady ; Madame Merle had made him a present of incalculable 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 189 

value. What could be a finer thing to live with than a high 
spirit attuned to softness 1 For would not the softness be all for 
one's self, and the strenuousness for society, which admired the 
air of superiority 1 What could be a happier gift in a companion 
than a quick, fanciful mind, which saved one repetitions, and 
reflected one's thought upon a scintillating surface] Osmond 
disliked to see his thought reproduced literally — ^that made it 
look stale and stupid; he preferred it to be brightened in the 
reproduction. His egotism, if egotism it was, had never taken 
the crude form of wishing for a dull wife ; this lady's intelligence 
was to be a silver plate, not an earthen one — a plate that he 
might heap up with ripe fruits, to which it would give a decora- 
tive value, so that conversation might become a sort of perpetual 
dessert. He found the silvery quaUty in perfection in Isabel; 
he could tap her imagination with his knuckle and make it ring. 
He knew perfectly, though he had not been told, that the union 
found little favour among the girl's relations; but he had always 
treated her so completely as an independent person that it 
hardly seemed necessary to express regret for the attitude of her 
family. Nevertheless, one morning, he made an abrupt allusion 
to it. 

" It's the difiFerence in our fortune they don't like," he said. 
" They think I am in love with your money." 

" Are you speaking of my aunt — of my cousin ? " Isabel asked. 
" How do you know what they think 1 " 

"You have not told me that they are pleased, and when I 
wrote to Mrs. Touchett the other day she never answered my 
note. If they had been delighted I should have learnt it, and 
the fact of my being poor and you rich is the most obvious 
explanation of their want of delight. But, of course, when a 
poor man marries a rich girl he must be prepared for imputations. 



190 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



I don't mind them ; I only care for one thing — your thinking 
it's all right. I don't care what others think. I have never 
cared much, and why should I begin to-day, when I have taken 
to myself a compensation for everything ? I won't pretend that 
I am sorry you are rich; I am delighted. I delight in every- 
thing that is yours — whether it be money or virtue. Money is 
a great advantage. It seems to me, however, that I have suffi- 
ciently proved that I can get on without it ; I never in my life 
tried to earn a penny, and I ought to be less subject to suspicion 
than most people. I suppose it is their business to suspect — 
that of your own family ; it's proper on the whole they should. 
They will like me better some day ; so will you, for that matter. 
Meanwhile my business is not to bother, but simply to be thank- 
ful for life and love. It has made me better, loving you," he 
said on another occasion; "it has made me wiser, and easier, 
and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and 
to be angry that I didn't have them. Theoretically, I was 
satisfied, as I once told you. I flattered myself that I had 
limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation ; I used to 
have morbid, sterile, hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I 
am really satisfied, because I can't think of anything better. It 
is just as when one has been trying to spell out a book in the 
twilight, and suddenly the lamp comes in. I had been putting 
out my eyes over the book of life, and finding nothing to reward 
me for my pains ; but now that I can read it properly I see that 
it's a delightful story. My dear girl, I can't tell you how life 
seems to stretch there before us — ^what a long summer afternoon 
awaits us. It's the latter half of an Italian day — with a golden 
haze, and the shadows just lengthening, and that divine delicacy 
in the light, the air, the landscape, which I have loved all my 
life, and which you love to-day. Upon my word, I don't see 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 191 

why we shouldn't get on.' We have got what we like — to say- 
nothing of having each other. We have the faculty of admir- 
ation, and several excellent beliefs. We are not stupid, we are 
not heavy, we are not under bonds to any dull limitations. You 
are very fresh, and I am well-seasoned. We have got my poor 
child to amuse us ; we will try and make up some little life for 
her. It is all soft and mellow — it has the Italian colouring." 

They made a good many plans, but they left themselves also 
a good deal of latitude ; it was a matter of course, however, that 
they should live for the present in Italy, It was in Italy that 
they had met, Italy had been a party to their first impressions 
of each other, and Italy should be a party to their happiness. 
Osmond had the attachment of old acquaintance, and Isabel the 
stimulus of new, which seemed to assure her a future of beautiful 
hours. The desire for unlimited expansion had been succeeded 
in her mind by the sense that life was vacant without some 
private duty which gathered one's energies to a point. She told 
Ealph that she had " seen life " in a year or two, and that she 
was already tired, not of life, but of observation. What had 
become of aU her ardours, her aspirations, her theories, her high 
estimate of her independence, and her incipient conviction that 
she should never marry] These things had been absorbed in 
a more primitive sentiment — a sentiment which answered all 
questions, satisfied all needs, solved all difficulties. It sim- 
plified the future at a stroke, it came down from above, like 
the light of the stars, and it needed no explanation. There 
was explanation enough in the fact that he was her lover, her 
own, and that she was able to be of use to him. She could 
marry him with a kind of pride; she was not only taking, 
but giving. 

He brought Pansy with him two or three times to the Cascine 



192 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

— Pansy who was very little taller than a year before, and not 
much older. That she would always be a child was the convic- 
tion expressed by her father, who held her by the hand when 
she was in her sixteenth year, and told her to go and play while 
he sat down a while with the pretty lady. Pansy wore a short 
dress and a long coat ; her hat always seemed too big for her. 
She amused herself with walking off, with quick, short steps, to 
the end of the alley, and then walking back with a smile that 
seemed an appeal for approbation. Isabel gave her approbation 
in abundance, and it was of that demonstrative personal kind 
which the child's affectionate nature craved She watched her 
development with a kind of amused suspense ; Pansy had already 
become a little daughter. She was .treated so completely as a 
child that Osmond had not yet explained to her the new relation 
in which he stood to the elegant Miss Archer. " She doesn't 
know," he said to Isabel ; " she doesn't suspect ; she thinks it 
perfectly natural that you and I should come and walk here 
together, simply as good friends. There seems to me something 
enchantingly innocent in that ; it's the way I like her to be. 
"No, I am not a failure, as I used to think ; I have succeeded in 
two things. I am to marry the woman I adore, and I have 
brought up my child as I wished, in the old way." 

He was very fond, in all things, of the " old way ; " that 
had struck Isabel as an element in the refinement of his 
character. 

"It seems to me you will not know whether you have suc- 
ceeded until you have told her," she said. ** You must see how 
she takes your news. She may be horrified — she may be 
jealous." 

" I am not afraid of that ; she is too fond of you on her own 
account. I should like to leave her in the dark a little longer — 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 193 

to see if it will come into her head .that if we are not engaged 
we ought to be." 

Isabel was impressed by Osmond's aesthetic relish of Pansy's 
innocence — ^her own appreciation of it being more moral. She 
was perhaps not the less pleased when he told her a few days 
later that he had broken the news to his daughter, who made 
such a pretty little speecL " Oh, then I shall have a sister ! " 
She was neither surprised nor alarmed; she had not cried, as 
he expected. 

" Perhaps she had guessed it," said Isabel. 

" Don't say that ; I should be disgusted if I believed that. I 
thought it would be just a little shock ; but the way she took it 
proves that her good manners are paramount. That is also what 
I wished. You shall see for yourself; to-morrow she shall 
make you her congratulations in person." 

The meeting, on the morrow, took place at the Countess 

Gemini's, whither Pansy had been conducted by her father, who 

knew that Isabel was to come in the afternoon to return a visit 

made her by the Countess on learning that they were to become 

sister-in-law. Calling at Casa Touchett, the visitor had not 

found Isabel at home; but after our young lady had been 

ushered into the Countess's drawing-room. Pansy came in to say 

that her aunt would presently appear. Pansy was spending the 

day with her aunt, who thought she was of an age when she should 

begin to learn how to carry herself in company. It was Isabel's 

view that the little girl might have given lessons in deportment 

to the elder lady, and nothing could have justified this conviction 

more than the manner in which Pansy acquitted herself while 

they waited together for the Countess. Her father's decision, 

the year before, had finally been to send her back to the convent 

to receive the last graces, and Madame Catherine had evidently 
VOL. n. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. IBS 

Her description of her autit had not been incorrect ; the 
Couatees Gemini 'was lesa than ever in a state of repose. She 
entered the room with a great deal of eipreaaion, and kissed 
Isabel, first on her lipa, and then on each cheek, in the short, 
quick manner of a bird drinking. She made Isabel sit down on 
the sofa beside her, and looking at onr heroine with a variety of 
turns of the head, dehvered herself of a hundred remarks, from 
'which I offer the reader but a brief selection. 

"If you expect me to congratulate you, I must beg you 
to excuse me. I don't suppose you care whether I do or not ; I 
believe yon are very proud. But I care myself whether I tell 
fibs or not ; I never tell them unless there is something to be 
gained, I don't see what there is to be gained with you — 
especially as you would not beheve me. I don't make phrases 
— I never made a phrase in my life. My fibs are always very 
crude. I am very glad, for my own sake, that you are going to 
marry Osmond ; but I won't pretend I am glad for yours. You 
are very remarkable — youknow that's what people call you; you 
are an heiress, and very good-looking and clever, very original ; 
so it's a good thii^ to have you in the family. Our famOy is 
Tery good, you know ; Osmond will have told yon that ; and my 
mother was rather distinguished — she was called the American 
Corinne. But we are rather fallen, I think, and perhaps you 
will pick us up. I have great confidence in you ; there are ever 
BO many thirds I want to talk to you about. I never congratu- 
late any girl on marrying ; I think it's the worst thing she can 
do. I suppose Fansy oughtn't t-o hear all this ; but that's what 
she has come to me for — to acquire the tone of society. There 
is no harm in her knowing that it isn't suah a blessing to get 
married. When first I got an idea that my brother had 
upon you, I thought of writing to yon, to recommend you, jl 




196 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

the strongest tenns, not to listen to him. Then I thought it 
would he disloyal, and I hate anything of that kind. Besides, 
as I say, I was enchanted, for myself; and after all, I am very 
selfish. By the way, you won't respect me, and we shall never 
be intimate. I should like it, but you won't. Some day, aU the 
same, we shall be better friends than you will believe at first. 
My husband will come and see you, though, as you probably 
know, he is on no sort of terms with Osmond. He is very fond 
of going to see pretty women, but I am not afraid of you. In 
the first place, I don't care what he does. In the second, you 
won't care a straw for him; you will take his measure at a 
glance. Some day I will tell you all about him. Do you think 
my niece ought to go out of the room 1 Pansy, go and practise 
a little in my boudoir." 

" Let her stay, please," said IsabeL " I would rather hear 
nothing that Pansy may not ! " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 197 



XVIL 

One afternoon, towards dusk, in the autumn of 1876, a young 
man of pleasing appearance rang at the door of a small apartment 
on the third floor of an old Roman house. On its being opened 
he inquired for Madame Merle, whereupon the servant, a neat, 
plain woman, with a French face and a lady's maid's manner, 
ushered him into a diminutive drawing-room and requested the 
favour of his name. 

" Mr. Edward Rosier," said the young man, who sat down to 
wait till his hostess should appear. 

The reader will perhaps not have forgotten that Mr. Rosier 
was an ornament of the American circle in Paris, but it may 
also be remembered that he sometimes vanished from its horizon. 
He had spent a portion of several winters at Pau, and as he was 
a gentleman of tolerably inveterate habits he might have con- 
tinued for years to pay his annual visit to this charming resort. 
In the summer of 1876, however, an incident befell him which 
changed the current, not only of his thoughts, but of his pro- 
ceedings. He passed a month in the Upper Engadine, and 
encountered at St. Moritz a charming young girl. For this 
young lady he conceived a peculiar admiration ; she was exactly 
the household angel he had long been looking for. He was 
never precipitate ; he was nothing if not discreet ; so he forbore 



198 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

for the present to declare his passion ; but it seemed to him 
when they parted — the young lady to go down into Italy, and 
her admirer to proceed to Geneva, where he was under bonds to 
join some friends — that he should be very unhappy if he were 
not to see her again. The simplest way to do so was to go in 
the autumn to Kome, where Miss Osmond was domiciled with 
her family. Hosier started on his pilgrimage to the Italian 
capital and reached it on the first of November. It was a pleasant 
thing to do ; but for the young man there was a strain of the 
heroic in the enterprise. He was nervous about the fever, and 
November, after all, was rather early in the season. Fortune, 
however, favours the brave ; and Mr. Rosier, who took three 
grains of quinine every day, had at the end of a month no cause 
to deplore his temerity. He had made to a certain extent good 
use of his time ; that is, he had perceived that Miss Pansy 
Osmond had not a flaw in her composition. She was admirably 
finished — she was in excellent style. He thought of her in 
amorous meditation a good deal as he might have thought of a 
Dresden-china shepherdess. Miss Osmond, indeed, in the bloom 
of her juvenility, had a touch of the rococo, which Rosier, whose 
taste was predominantly for that manner, could not fail to 
appreciate. That he esteemed the productions of comparatively 
frivolous periods would have been apparent from the attention 
he bestowed upon Madame Merle's drawing-room, which, although 
furnished with specimens of every style, was especially rich in 
articles of the last two centuries. He had immediately put a 
glass into one eye and looked round ; and then — " By Jove ! 
she has some jolly good things ! " he had murmured to himself. 
The room was small, and densely filled with furniture ; it gave 
an impression of faded silk and little statuettes which might 
totter if one moved. Rosier got up and wandered about with 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 199 



his careful tread, bending over the tables charged with knick- 
knacks and the cushions embossed with princely arms. When 
Madame Merle came in she found him standing before the fire- 
place, with his nose very close to the great lace flounce attached 
to the damask cover of the mantel He had lifted it delicately, 
as if he were smelling it. 

" It's old Venetian," she said ; " it*s rather good." 

" It's too good for this ; you ought to wear it." 

** They tell me you have some better in Paris, in the same 
situation.*' 

" Ah, but I can't wear mine," said Rosier, smiling. 

" I don't see why you shouldn't ! I have better lace than 
that to wear." 

Hosier's eyes wandered, lingeringly, round the room again. 

" You have somevery good things." 

" Yes, but I hate them." 

" Do you want to get rid of them 1 " the young man asked 
quickly. 

" No, it's good to have something to hate ; one works it oflf." 

"I love my things," said Rosier, as he sat there smiling. 
" But it's not about them — ^nor about yours, that I came to talk 
to you." He paused a moment, and then, with greater softness 
— " I care more for Miss Osmond' than for all the bibelots in 
Europe 1 " 

Madame Merle started a little. 

" Did you come to tell me that 1 " 

" I came to ask your advice." 

She looked at him with a little frown, stroking her chin, 

" A man in love, you know, doesn't ask advice." 

** Why not, if he is in a difl&cult position ? That's often the 
case with a man in love. I have been in love before, and I 



200 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

know. But never so much as this time — really, never so mucL 
I should like particularly to know what you think of my pros- 
pects. Fm afraid Mr. Osmond doesn't think me a phcenix." 

" Do you wish me to intercede 1 " Madame Merle asked, with 
her fine arms folded, and her mouth drawn up to the left. 

" If you could say a good word for me, I should be greatly 
obliged. There will be no use in my troubling Miss Osmond 
unless I have good reason to believe her father will consent." 

" You are very considerate ; that's in your favour. But 
you assume, in rather an off-hand way, that I think "you a 
prize." 

"You have been very kind to me," said the young man. 
" That's why I came." 

" I am always kind to people who have good hihdots ; there 
is no telling what one may get by it." 

And the left-hand comer of Madame Merle's mouth gave 
expression to the joke. 

Edward Kosier stared and blushed ; his correct features were 
suffused with disappointment. 

" Ah, I thought you liked me for myself ! " 

" I like you very much ; but, if you please, we won't analyse. 
Excuse me if I seem patronising; but I think you a perfect 
little gentleman. I must tell you, however, that I have not the 
marrying of Pansy Osmond." 

" I didn't suppose that. But you have seemed to me intimate 
with her family, and I thought you might have influence." 

Madame Merle was silent a moment. 

" Whom do you call her family ] " 

" Why, her father ; and — how do you say it in English \ — 
her belle-mhre,^* 

"Mr. Osmond is her father, certainly; but his wife can 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 201 



scarcely be termed a member of her family. Mrs. Osmond has 
nothing to do with marrying her." 

" I am sorry for that," said Eosier, with an amiable sigh. " I 
think Mrs. Osmond would favour me." 

" Very likely — if her husband does not." 

Edward Eosier raised his eyebrows. 

" Does she take the opposite line from him 1 " 

" In everything. They think very differently." 

"Well," said Eosier, "I am sorry for that; but it's none of 
my business. She is very fond of Pansy." 

" Yes, she is very fond of Pansy." 

"And Pansy has a great affection for her. She has told me 
that she loves her as if she were her own mother." 

" You must, after all, have had some very intimate talk with 
the poor child," said Madame Merle. " Have you declared your 
sentiments 1 " 

" Never ! " cried Eosier, lifting his neatly -gloved hand. 
** Never, until I have assured myself of those of the parents." 

" You always wait for that 1 You have excellent principles ; 
your conduct is most estimable." 

" I think you are laughing at me," poor Eosier murmured, 
dropping back in his chair, and feeling his small moustache. 
"I didn't expect that of you, Madame Merle." 

She shook her head calmly, like a person who saw things 
clearly. 

" You don't do me justice. I think your conduct is in 
excellent taste and the best you could adopt. Yes, that's what 
I think." 

" I wouldn't agitate her — only to agitate her ; I love her too 
much for that," said Ned Eosier. 

**I am glad, after all, that you have told me," Madame 



202 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



Merle went on. " Leave it to me a little ; I think I can help 

you." 

" I said you were the person to come to 1 " cried the young 
man, with an ingenuous radiance in his face. 

" You were very clever," Madame Merle returned, more drily. 
" When I say I can help you, I mean once assuming that your 
cause is good. Let us think a little whether it is." 

"Tm a dear little fellow,** said Eosier, earnestly. "I won't 
say I have no faults, but I will say I have no vices." 

"All that is negative. What is the positive sidel What 
have you got besides your Spanish lace and your Dresden 
tea-cups 1 " 

" I have got a comfortable little fortune — about forty thousand 
francs a year. With the talent that I have for arranging, we 
can live beautifully on such an income." 

" Beautifully, no. Sufficiently, yes. Even that depends on 
where you live." 

" Well, in Paris. I would undertake it in Paris." 

Madame Merle's mouth rose to the left. 

" It wouldn't be splendid ; you would have to make use of the 
tea-cups, and they would get broken." 

**We don't want to be splendid. K Miss Osmond should 
have everything pretty, it would be enough. When one is as 
pretty as she, one can afford to be simple. She ought never to 
wear anything but muslin," said Eosier, reflectively. 

" She would be much obliged to you for that theory." 

" It's the correct one, I assure you ; and I am sure she would 
enter into it. She understands aU that ; that's why I love her." 

" She is a very good little girl, and extremely graceful. But 
her father, to the best of my belief, can give her nothing." 

Eosier hesitated a moment. 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. '203 

**I don't in the least desire that he should. But I may 
remark, all the same, that he lives like a rich man." 

" The money is his wife's ; she brought him a fortune." 

" Mrs. Osmond, then, is very fond of her step-daughter ; she 
may do something." 

**For a love-sick swain you have your eyes about you!" 
Madame Merle exclaimed, with a laugh. 

"I esteem a dot very much. I can do without it, but I 
esteem it." 

"Mrs. Osmond," Madame Merle went on, "will probably 
prefer to keep her money for her own children." 

" Her own children? Surely she has none." 

" She may have yet. She had a poor little boy, who died two 
years ago, six months after his birtL Others, therefore, may 
come." 

"I hope they will, if it will make her happy. She is a 
splendid woman." 

Madame Merle was silent a moment. 

" Ah, about her there is much to be said. Splendid as you 
like ! "We have not exactly made out that you are a parti. The 
absence of vices is hardly a source of income." 

"Excuse me, I think it may be," said Eosier, with his per- 
suasive smile. 

" You'll be a touching couple, living on your innocence ! " 

" I think you underrate me." 

" You are not so innocent as that 1 Seriously," said Madame 
Merle, " of course forty thousand francs a year and a nice 
character are a combination to be considered. I don't say it's 
to be jumped at ; but there might be a worse offer. Mr. Osmond 
will probably incline to believe he can do better." 

"He can do so, perhaps; but what can his daughter do? 



204 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



She can't do better than marry the man she loves. For she 
does, you know," Hosier added, eagerly. 

** She does — ^I know it." 

" Ah," cried the young man, " I said you were the person to 
come to." 

" But I don't know how you know it, if you haven't asked 
her," Madame Merle went on. 

" In such a case there is no need of asking and telling ; as 
you say, we are an innocent couple. How did you know 
it?" 

" I who am not innocent % By being very crafty. I/eave it 
to me ; I will find out for you." 

Rosier got up, and stood smoothing his hat. 

" You say that rather coldly. Don't simply find out how it • 
is, but try to make it as it should be." 

" I will do my best. I will try to make the most of your 
advantages." 

" Thank you so very much. Meanwhile, I will say a word to 
Mrs. Osmond." 

" Gardez-vou8 en him ! " And Madame Merle rose, rapidly* 
" Don't set her going, or you'll spoil everything." 

Rosier gazed into his hat ; he wondered whether his hostess 
had been after all the right person to come to. 

"I don't think I understand you. I am an old friend of 
Mrs. Osmond, and I think she would like me to succeed." 

" Be an old friend as much as you like ; the more old friends 
she has the better, for she doesn't get on very well with some of 
her new. But don't for the present try to make her take up the 
cudgels for you. Her husband may have other views, and, as & 
person who wishes her well, I advise you not to multiply points 
of difference between them." 



THE POKTKAIT OF A LADY. 205 



Poor Eosier's face assumed an expression of alarm ; a suit for 
the hand of Pansy Osmond was even a more complicated business 
than his taste for proper transitions had allowed. But the ex- 
treme good sense which he concealed under a surface suggesting 
sprigged porcelain, came to his assistance. 

"I don't see that I am bound to consider Mr. Osmond so 
much ! " he exclaimed. 

" No, but you should consider her. You say you are an old 
friend. Would you make her suffer ? " 

" :N'ot for the world." 

" Then be very careful, and let the matter alone until I have 
taken a few soundings." 

"Let the matter alone, dear Madame Merle 1 Remember 
that I am in love." 

" Oh, you won't bum up. Why did you come to me, if. you 
are not to heed what I say 1 " 

**You are very kind; I will be very good," the young man 
promised. *' But I am afraid Mr. Osmond is rather difficult," 
he added, in his mild voice, as he went to the door. 

Madame Merle gave a light laugh. 

" It has been said before. But his wife is not easy either." 

" Ah, she's a splendid woman ! " Ned Rosier repeated, passing 
out. 

He resolved that his conduct should be worthy of a young 
man who was already a model of discretion ; but he saw nothing 
in any pledge he had given Madame Merle that made it im- 
proper he should keep himself in spirits by an occasional visit to 
Miss Osmond's home. He reflected constantly on what Madame 
Merle had said to him, and turned over in his mind the impres- 
sion of her somewhat peculiar manner. He had gone to her de 
confiancey as they said in Paris ; but it was possible that he had 



206 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

been precipitate. He found difficulty in thinking of himself as 
rash — he had. incurred this reproach so rarely ; but it certainly 
was true that he had known Madame Merle only for the last 
month, and that his thinking her a delightful woman was not, 
when one came to look into it, a reason for assuming that she 
would be eager to push Pansy Osmond into his arms — gracefully 
arranged as these members might be to receive her. Beyond 
this, Madame Merle had been very gracious to him, and she was 
a person of consideration among the girl's people, where she had 
a rather striking appearance (Rosier had more than once won- 
dered how she managed it), of being intimate without being 
familiar. But possibly he had exaggerated these advantages. 
There was no particular reason why she should take trouble for 
him ; a charming woman was charming to every one, and Rosier 
felt rather like a fool when he thought of his appealing to 
Madame Merle on the ground that she had distinguished hinu 
Very likely — though she had appeared to say it in joke — she 
was really only thinking of his bibelots. Had it come into her 
head that he might offer her two or three of the gems of his col- 
lection 1 If she would only help him to marry Miss Osmond, 
he would present her with his whole museum. He could hardly 
say so to her outright ; it would seem too gross a bribe. But he 
should like her to believe it. 

It was with these thoughts that he went again to Mrs. 
Osmond's, Mrs. Osmond having an " evening " — she had taken 
the Thursday of each week — when his presence could be 
accounted for on general principles of civility. The object of 
Mr. Hosier's well-regulated affection dwelt in a high house in the 
very heart of Rome ; a dark and massive structure, overlooking 
a sunny piazzetta in the neighbourhood of the Famese Palace. 
In a palace, too, little Pansy lived — a palace in Roman parlance^ 



THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY. 207 

but a dungeon to poor Eosier's apprehensive mind. It seemed 
to him of evil omen that the young lady he wished to marry, and 
whose fastidious father he doubted of his ability to conciliate, 
should be immured in a kind of domestic fortress, which bore 
a stern old Eoman name, which smelt of historic deeds, of crime 
and craft and violence, which was mentioned in " Murray " and 
visited by tourists who looked disappointed and depressed, and 
which had frescoes by Caravaggio in the piano nohile and a row 
of mutilated statues and dusty urns in the wide, nobly-arched 
loggia overlooking the damp court where a fountain gushed 
out of a mossy niche. In a less preoccupied frame of mind he 
could have done justice to the Palazzo Eoccanera ; he could have 
entered into the sentiment of Mrs. Osmond, who had once told 
him that on settling themselves in Eome she and her husband 
chose this habitation for the love of local colour. It had local 
colour enough, and though he knew less about architecture than 
about Limoges enamel, he could see that the proportions of the 
windows, and even the details of the cornice, had quite the 
grand aii*. But Eosier was haunted by the conviction that at 
picturesque periods young girls had been shut up there to keep 
them from their true loves, and, under the threat of being 
thrown into convents, had been forced into unholy marriages. 
There was one point, however, to which he always did justice 
when- once he found himself in Mrs. Osmond's warm, rich-look- 
ing reception-rooms, which were on the second floor. He 
acknowledged that these people were very strong in bibelots. It 
was a taste of Osmond's own — not at all of hers ; this she had 
told him the first time he came to the house, when, after asking 
himself for a quarter of an hour whether they had better things 
than he, he was obliged to admit that they had, very much, and 
vanquished his envy, as a gentleman should, to the point of 



208 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



expressing to his hostess his pure admiration of her treasures. 
He learned from Mrs. Osmond that her husband had made a 
large collection before their marriage, and that, though he had 
obtained a number of fine pieces within the last three years, he 
had got his best things at a time when he had not the advantage 
of her advice. Eosier interpreted this information according to 
principles of his own. For *' advice" read "money," he said 
to himself ; and the fact that Gilbert Osmond had landed his 
great prizes during his impecunious season, confirmed his most 
cherished doctrine — the doctrine that a collector may freely be 
poor if he be only patient. In general, when Eosier presented 
himself on a Thursday evening, his first glance was bestowed 
upon the walls of the room; there were three or four objects 
that his eyes really yearned for. But after his talk with Madame 
Merle he felt the extreme seriousness of his position ; and now 
when he came in, he looked about for the daughter of the house 
with such eagerness as might be permitted to a gentleman who 
always crossed a threshold with an optimistic snule. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 209 



xvm. 

Pansy was not in the first of the rooms, a large apartment 
with a concave ceiling and walls covered with old red damask ; 
it was here that Mrs. Osmond usually sat — though she was not 
in her usually customary place to-night — and that a circle of 
more especial intimates gathered ahout the fire. The room was 
warm, with a sort of subdued brightness ; it contained the larger 
things, and — almost always — an odour of flowers. Pansy on 
this occasion was presumably in the chamber beyond, the resort 
of younger visitors, where tea was served. Osmond stood before 
the chimney, leaning back, with his hands behind him ; he had 
one foot up and was warming the sole. Half-a-dozen people, 
scattered near him, were talking together ; but he was not in the 
conversation ; his eyes were fixed, abstractedly. Rosier, coming 
in unannounced, failed to attract his attention ; but the young 
man, who was very punctilious, though he was even exception- 
ally conscious that it was the wife, not the husband, he had 
come to see, went up to shake hands with him. Osmond put 
out his left hand, without changing his attitude. 

" How d'ye do 1 My wife's somewhere about." 

" Never fear ; I shall find her," said Rosier, cheerfully. 

Osmond stood looking at him ; he had never before felt the 
keenness of this gentleman's eyes. " Madame Merle has told 

VOL. II. p 



210 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

him, and he doesn't like it," Rosier said to himseK. He had 
hoped Madame Merle would he there ; hut she was not within 
sight ; perhaps she was in one of the other rooms, or would come 
later. He had never especially delighted in Gilhert Osmond ; 
he had a fancy that he gave himself aii*s. But Rosier was not 
quickly resentful, and where pohteness was concerned lie had 
an inveterate wish to he in the right. He looked round him, 
smiling, and then, in a moment, he said — 

" I saw a jolly good piece of Capo di Monte to-day." 
Osmond answered nothing at first; hut presently, while he 
warmed his hoot-sole, " I don't care a fig for Capo di Monte ! " 
he returned. 

" I hope you are not losing your interest 1 " 

" In old pots and plates ? Yes, I am losing my interest." 

Rosier for a moment forgot the dehcacy of his position. 

" You are not thinking of parting with a — a piece or 

two ? " 

" No, I am not thinking of parting with anything at all, Mr. 
Rosier," said Osmond, with his eyes still on the eyes of his 
visitor. 

" Ah, y9U want to keep, hut not to add," Rosier remarked, 
hrightly. 

" Exactly. I have nothing that I wish to match." 

Poor Rosier was aware that he had hlushed, and he was dis- 
tressed at his want of assurance. " Ah, well, I have I " was all 
that he could murmur; and he knew that his murmur was 
partly lost as he turned away. He took his course to the adjoiib- 
ing room, and met Mrs. Osmond coming out of the deep door- 
way. She was dressed in hlack velvet; she looked brilliant 
and nohle. We know what Mr. Rosier thought of her, and the 
terms in which, to Madame Merle, he had expressed his admir- 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 211 

ation. Like his appreciation of her dear little step-daughter, it 
was based partly on his line sense of the plastic ; but also on a 
relish for a more impalpable sort of merit — ^that merit of a bright 
spirit, which Eosier's devotion to brittle wares had not made 
him cease to regard as a quality. Mrs. Osmond, at present, 
might well have gratified such tastes. The years had touched 
her only to enrich her; the flower of her youth had not faded, it 
only hung more quietly on its stem. She had lost something of 
that quick eagerness to which her husband had privately taken 
exception — she had more the air of being able to wait. Now, at 
all events, framed in the gilded doorway, she struck our young 
man as the picture of a gracious lady. 

" You see I am very regular," he said. " But who should be 
if I am not ? " 

" Yes, I have known you longer than any one here. But we 
must not indulge in tender reminiscences. I want to introduce 
you to a young lady." 

"Ah, please, what young ladjV* Eosier was immensely 
obliging ; but this was not what he had come for. 

" She sits there by the fire in pink, and has no one to speak 
to." 

Eosier hesitated a moment. 

" Can't Mr. Osmond speak to her 1 He is within six feet of 
her.*' 

Mrs. Osmond also hesitated. 

" She is not very lively, and he doesn't like dull people." 

" But she is good enough for me ? Ah now, that is hard." 

" I only mean that you have ideas for two. And then you 
are so obliging." 

" So is your husband." 

"i^o, he is not — to me," And Mrs. Osmond smiled vaguely. 

p 2 



212 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

*' That's a sign he should be doubly so to other women." 
">So I tell him," said Mrs. Osmond, still smiling. 
" You see I want some tea," Kosier went on, looking wistfully 
beyond. 

"That's perfect. Go and give some to my young lady." 
" Very good ; but after that I will abandon her to her fate. 
The simple truth is that I am dying to have a little talk with 
Miss Osmond." 

" Ah," said Isabel, turning away, " I can't help you there 1 " 
Five minutes later, while he handed a tea-cup to the young 
lady in pink, whom he had conducted into the other room, he 
wondered whether, in making to Mrs. Osmond the profession I 
have just quoted, he had broken the spirit of his promise to 
Madame Merle. Such a question was capable of occupying this 
young man's mind for a considerable time. At last, however, 
he became — comparatively speaking — reckless, and cared Httle 
what promises he might break. The fate to which he had 
threatened to abandon the young lady in pink proved to be none 
so terrible ; for Pansy Osmond, who had given him the tea for 
his companion — Pansy was as fond as ever of making tea — 
presently came and talked to her. Into this mild colloquy 
Edward Eosier entered little ; he sat by moodily, watching his 
small sweetheart. If we look at her now through his eyes, we 
shall at first not see much to remind us of the obedient little 
girl who, at Florence, three years before, was sent to walk short 
distances in the Cascine while her father and Miss Archer talked 
together of matters sacred to elder people. But after a moment 
we shall perceive that if at nineteen Pansy has become a young 
lady, she does not really fill out the part ; that if she has grown 
very pretty, she lacks in a deplorable degree the quality known 
and esteemed in the appearance of females as style j and that if 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 213 

she is dressed with great freshness, she wears her smart attire 
with an undisguised appearance of saving it — very much as if it 
were lent her for the occasion. Edward Eosier, it would seem, 
would have been just the man to note these defects ; and in 
point of fact there was not a quality of this young lady, of any 
sort, that he had not noted. Only he called her qualities by 
names of his own— some of which indeed were happy enough. 
" No, she is unique — she is absolutely unique," he used to say 
to himself ; and you may be sure that not for an instant would 
he have admitted to you that she was wanting in style. Style 1 
Why, she had the style of a little princess ; if you couldn't see 
it you had no eye. It was not modem, it was not conscious, it 
would produce no impression in Broadway ; the small, serious 
damsel, in her stiff little dress, only looked like an Infanta of 
Velasquez. This was enough for Edward Eosier, who thought 
her delightfully old-fashioned. Her anxious eyes, her charming 
lips, her slip of a figure, were as touching as a childish prayer. 
He had now an acute desire to know just to what point she 
liked him — a desire which made him fidget as he sat in his 
chair. It made him feel hot, so that he had to pat his forehead 
with his handkerchief; he had never been so uncomfortable. 
She was such a perfect jeune fille ; and one couldn't make of a 
jeune fille the inquiry necessary for throwing light on such a 
point. A jeune fille was what Eosier had always dreamed of — 
z, jeune fille who should yet not be French, for he had felt that 
this nationality would complicate the question. He was sure 
that Pansy had never looked at a newspaper, and that, in the 
way of novels, if she had read Sir Walter Scott it was the very 
most. An American jeune fille ; what would be better than 
that % She would be frank and gay, and yet would not have 
walked alone, nor have received letters from men, nor have been 



214 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

taken to the theatre to see the comedy of manners. Kosier 
could not deny that, as the matter stood, it would be a breach 
of hospitality to appeal directly to this unsophisticated creature » 
but he was now in imminent danger of asking himself whether 
hospitality were the most sacred thing in the world. Was not 
the sentiment that he entertained for Miss Osmond of infinitely 
greater importance] Of greater importance to him — yes; but 
not probably to the master of the house. There was one com- 
fort ; even if this gentleman had been placed on his guard by 
Madame Merle, he would not have extended the warning to 
Pansy; it would not have been part of his policy to let her 
know that a prepossessing young man was in love with her. 
But he loas in love with her, the prepossessing young man ; and 
all these restrictions of circumstance had ended by irritating 
him. What had Gilbert Osmond meant by giving him two 
fingers of his left hand 1 If Osmond was rude, surely he himseK 
might be bold. He felt extremely bold after the dull girl in 
pink had responded to the call of her mother, who came in to 
say, with a significant simper at Eosier, that she must carry her 
off to other triumphs. The mother and daughter departed 
together, and now it depended only upon him that he should 
be virtually alone with Pansy. He had never been alone with 
her before ; he had never been alone with a jeune fille. It was 
a great moment ; poor Kosier began to pat his forehead again. 
There was another room, beyond the one in which they stood — 
a small room which had been thrown open and lighted, but, 
the company not being numerous, had remained empty all the 
evening. It was empty yet ; it was upholstered in pale yellow ; 
there were several lamps ; through the open door it*looked very 
pretty. Eosier stood a moment, gazing through this aperture ; 
he was afraid that Pansy would run away, and felt almost 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 215 

capable of stretching out a hand to detain her. But she lingered 
where the young lady in pink had left them, making no motion 
to join a knot of visitors on the other side of the room. For a 
moment it occurred to him that she was frightened — too frightened 
perhaps to move ; but a glance assured him that she was not, 
and then he reflected that she was too innocent, indeed, for 
that. After a moment's supreme hesitation he asked her 
whether he might go and look at the yellow room, which seemed 
so attractive yet so virginal He had been there already with 
Osmond, to inspect the furniture, which was of the First 
French Empire, and especially to admire the clock (which 
he did not really admire), an immense classic structure of that 
period. He therefore felt that he had now begun to 
manoeuvre. 

"Certainly^, you may go," said Pansy; "and if you like, I 
will show you.** She was not in the least frightened. 

"That's just what I hoped you would say; you are so very 
kind,** Rosier murmured. 

They went in together ; Rosier really thought the room very 
ugly, and it seemed cold. The same idea appeared to have 
struck Pansy. 

" It's not for winter evenings ; it's more for summer," she 
said. " It's papa's taste ; he has so much." 

He had a good deal. Rosier thought ; but some of it was bad. 
He looked about him ; he hardly knew what to say in such a 
situation. "Doesn't Mrs. Osmond care how her rooms are 
done 1 Has she no taste 1 " he asked. 

"Oh yes, a great deal; but it's more for literature," said 
Pansy — " and for conversation. But papa cares also for those 
things : I think he knows everything." 

Rosier was silent a moment. " There is one thing I am sure 



216 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

he knows ! " lie broke out presently. " He knows that when I 
come here it is, with all respect to him, with all respect to Mrs. 
Osmond, who is so charming — it is really," said the young man, 
" to see you ! " 

"To see mel** asked Pansy, raising her vaguely-troubled 
«yes. 

"To see you; that's what I come for," Eosier repeated, 
feeling the intoxication of a rupture with authority. Pansy 
stood looking at him, simply, intently, openly; a blush was 
not needed to make her face more modest. 

" I thought it was for that," she said. 

" And it was not disagreeable to youl " 

"I couldn't tell; I didn't know. You never told me," said 
Pansy. 

" I was afraid of offending you." 

" You don't offend me," the young girl murmured, smiling as 
if an angel had kissed her. 

"You like me then, Pansy 1" Rosier asked, very, gently, 
feeling very happy. 

" Yes— I Hke you." 

They had walked to the chimney-piece, where the big cold 
Empire clock was perched ; they were well within the room, 
and beyond observation from without. The tone in which she 
had said these four words seemed to him the very breath of 
nature, and his only answer could be to take her hand and hold 
it a moment. Then he raised it to his lips. She submitted, 
still with her pure, trusting smile, in which there was some- 
thing ineffably passive. She liked him — she had liked him all 
the while ; now anything might happen ! She was ready — she 
had been ready always, waiting for him to speak. If he had 
not spoken she would have waited for ever ; but when the word 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 217 

came she dropped like the peach from the shaken tree. Eosier 
felt that if he should draw her towards him and hold her to his 
heart, she would submit without a murmur, she would rest there 
without a question. It was true that this would be a rash 
experiment in a yellow Empire salottino. She had known it 
was for her he came ; and yet like what a perfect little lady she 
had carried it off ! 

" You are very dear to me," he murmured, trying to believe 
that there was after all such a thing as hospitality. 

She looked a moment at her hand, where he had kissed it. 
" Did you say that papa knows 1 " 

" You told me just now he knows everything." 

" I think you must make sure," said Pansy. 

"Ah, my dear, when once I am sure of you!" Eosier mur- 
mured in her ear, while she turned back to the other rooms 
with a little air of consistency which seemed to imply that their 
appeal should be immediate. 

The other rooms meanwhile had become conscious of the 
arrival of Madame Merle, who, wherever she went, produced an 
impression when she entered. How she did it the most attentive 
spectator could not have told you ; for she neither spoke loud, 
nor laughed profusely, nor moved rapidly, nor dressed with 
splendour, nor appealed in any appreciable manner to the 
audience. Large, fair, smiling, serene, there was something in 
her very tranquillity that diffused itself, and when people looked 
round it was because of a sudden quiet. On this occasion she 
had done the quietest thing she could do ; after embracing Mrs. 
Osmond, which was more striking, she had sat down on a small 
sofa to commune with the master of the house. There was a 
brief exchange of commonplaces between these two — they always 
paid, in public, a certain formal tribute to the commonplace — 



218 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

and then 'SlsA&me ^lerle, whose eyes had been wanderings asked 
if little Mr. Hosier had come this eyening. 

^He came nearly an hour ago — ^bot he has disappeared," 
Osmond said. 

" And where is Pansy f " 

" In the other room. There are seyeral people there." 

" He is probably among them,'' said Madame Merle. 

" Do you wish to see hini ] " Osmond asked, in a ppovokingly 
pointless tone. 

Madame Merle looked at him a moment ; she knew his tones 
to the eighth of a note. " Yes, I should like to say to him that 
I have told you what he wants, and that it interests you but 
feebly." 

" Don't tell him that, he wOl try to interest me more — ^which 
is exactly what I don't want. Tell hini I hate his proposaL" 

" But you don't hate it." 

" It doesn't signify : I don't love it. I let him see that, 
myself, this evening; I was rude to him on purpose. That 
sort of thing is a great bore. There is no hurry." 

" I will tell him that you will take time and think it over." 

" No, don't do that. He will hang on." 

" If I discourage him he will do the same." 

" Yes, but in the one case he will try and talk and explain ; 
which would be exceedingly tiresome. In the other lie will 
probably hold his tongue and go in for some deeper game. 
That will leave me quiet. I hate talking with a donkey." 

'* Is that what you call poor Mr. Kosier 1 " 

" Oh, he's, enervating, with his eternal majolica." 

Madame Merle. dropped her eyes, with a faint smila ''He's 
a gentleman, he has a charming temper ; and, after all, an income 
of forty thousand francs " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 219 

"It's misery — genteel misery," Osmond broke in. *'It's not 
what I have dreamed of for Pansy." 

"Very good, then. He has promised me not to speak 
to her." 

" Do you believe him 1 *' Osmond asked, absent-mindedly. 

" Perfectly. Pansy has thought a great deal about him ; but 
I don't suppose you think that matters." 

" I don't think it matters at all ; but neither do I believe she 
has thought about him." 

"That opinion is more convenient," said Madame Merle, 
quietly. 

" Has she told you that she is in love with him 1 " 

"For what do you take herl And for what do you take 
me 1 " Madame Merle added in a moment. 

Osmond had raised his foot and was resting his slim ankle 
on the other knee ; he clasped his ankle in his hand, familiarly, 
and gazed a while before him. "This kind of thing doesn't 
find me unprepared. It's what I educated her for. It was all 
for this — that when such a case should come up she should do 
what I prefer." 

" I am not afraid that she will not do it." 

" Well then, where is the hitch?" 

" I don't see any. But all the same, I recommend you not 
to get rid of Mr. Eosier. Keep him on hand, he may be 
useful." 

" I can't keep him. Do it yourself." 

" Very good ; I will put him into a corner and allow him so 
much a day." Madame Merle had, for the most part, while 
they talked, been glancing about her ; it was her habit, in this 
situation, just as it was her habit to interpose a good many 
blank-looking pauses. A long pause followed the last words I 



220 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

have quoted ; and before it was broken again, she saw Pansy 
come out of the adjoining room, followed by Edward Rosier. 
Pansy advanced a few steps and then stopped and stood looking 
at Madame Merle and at her father. 

"He has spoken to her," Madame Merle said, simply, to 
Osmond. 

Her companion never turned his head. " So much for youi 
belief in his promises. He ought to be horsewhipped." 

" He intends to confess, poor little man ! " 

Osmojid got up; he had now taken a sharp look at his 
daughter. " It doesn't matter," he murmured, 'turning away. 

Pansy after a moment came up to Madame Merle with her 
little manner of unfamiliar politeness. This lady's reception of 
her was not more intimate ; she simply, as she rose from the 
sofa, gave her a friendly smile. 

" You are^very late," said the young girl, gently. 

" My dear child, I am never later than I intend to be." 

Madame Merle had not got up to be gracious to Pansy ; she 
moved towards Edward Rosier. He came to meet her, and, 
very quickly, as if to get it off his mind — " I have spoken to 
her ! " he whispered. 

" I know it, Mr. Rosier." 

"Did she tell you 1" 

"Yes, she told me. Behave properly for the rest of the 
evening, and come and see me to-morrow at a quarter past five." 

She was severe, and in the manner in which she turned her 
back to him there was a degree of contempt which caused him 
to mutter a decent imprecation. 

He had no intention of speaking to Osmond ; it was neither 
the time nor the place. But he instinctively wandered towards 
Isabel, who sat talking with an old lady. He sat down on the 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 221 



other side of her ; the old lady was an Italian, and Eosier took 
for granted that she understood no English. 

" You said just now you wouldn't help me," he began, to 
Mrs. Osmond. "Perhaps you will feel differently when you 
know — when you know " 

He hesitated a little. 

" When I know what 1 " Isabel asked, gently. 

" That she is aU right." 

" What do you mean by that 1 " 

" Well, that we have come to an understanding." 

" She is all wrong," said Isabel. " It won't do." 

Poor Eosier gazed at her half-pleadingly, half-angrily ; a 
sudden flush testified to his sense of injury. 

"I have never been treated so," he said. "What is there 
against me, after aU 1 That is not the way I am usually con- 
sidered. I could have married twenty times." 

"It's a pity you didn't. I don't mean twenty times, but 
once, comfortably," Isabel added, smiling kindly. "You are 
not rich enough for Pansy." 

" She doesn't care a straw for one's money." 

" No, but her father does." 

" Ah yes, he has proved that ! " cried the young man. 

Isabel got up, turning away from him, leaving her old lady, 
without saying anything ; and he occupied himself for the next 
ten minutes in pretending to look at Gilbert Osmond's collection 
of miniatures, which were neatly arranged on a series of small 
velvet screens. But he looked without seeing; his cheek 
burned ; he was too full of his sense of injury. It was certain 
that he had never been treated that way before ; he was not 
used to being thought not good enough. He knew how good he 
was, and if such a fallacy had not been so pernicious he could 



222 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Jbave laughed at it. He looked about again for Pansy, bat she 
had disappeared, and his main desire was now to get out of the 
house. Before doing so he spoke to Isabel again ; it was not 
agreeable to him to reflect that he had just said a rude thing to 
her — the only point that would now justify a low view of him. 

" I spoke of Mr. Osmond as I shouldn't have done, a while 
ago," he said. " But you must remember my situation." 

" I don't remember what you said," she answered, coldly. 

" Ah, you are offended, and now you will never help me. 

She was silent an instant, and then, with a change of tone — 

" It's not that I won't ; I simply can't ! " Her manner was 
almost passionate. 

" If you could — just a little," said Rosier,' " I would never 
again speak of your husband save as an angeL" 

" The inducement is great," said Isabel gravely — ^inscrutably, 
as he afterwards, to himself, called it; and she gave him, 
straight in the eyes, a look which was also inscrutable. It 
made him remember, somehow, that he had known her as a 
child; and yet it was keener than he liked, and lie took 
himself off. 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 223 



XIX. 

He went to see Madame Mede on the morrow, and to liis 
sraiprise she let him off rather easily. But she made him 
promise that he would stop there until something should have 
heen decided. Mr. Osmond had had higher expectations; it 
was very true that as he had no intention of giving his daughter 
a portion, such expectations were open to criticism, or even, if 
one would, to ridicule. But she would advise Mr. Eosier not to 
take that tone ; if he would possess his soul in patience he might 
arrive ^at his felicity. Mr. Osmond was not favourable to his 
suit, hut it would not he a miracle if he should gradually come 
round. Pansy would never defy her father, he might depend 
upon that, so nothing was to he gained by precipitation. Mr. 
Osmond needed to accustom his mind to an offer of a sort that 
he had not hitherto entertained, and this result must come of 
itself — it was useless to try to force it. Kosier remarked that 
his own situation would be in the mean while the most uncom- 
fortable in the world, and Madame Merle assured him that she 
felt for him. But, as she justly declared, one couldn't have 
everything one wanted ; she had learned that lesson for herself. 
There would be no use in his writing to Gilbert Osmond, who 
had charged lier to tell him as much. He wished the matter 
dropped for a few weeks, and would himself write when he 




224 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

should have anything to communicate which it would please 
Mr. Hosier to hear. 

"He doesn't like your having spoken to Pansy. Ah, he 
doesn't like it at all/' said Madame Merle. 

" I am perfectly willing to give him a chance to tell me so ! " 
» " K you do that he will tell you more than you care to hear. 
Go to the house, for the next month, as little as possible, and 
leave the rest to me." 

" As little as possible 1 Who is to measure that 1 " 

" Let me measure it. Go on Thursday evenings with the rest 
of the world ; but don't go at all at odd times, and don't fret 
about Pansy. I will see that she understands everything. She's 
a calm little nature ; she will take it quietly." 
. Edward Eosier fretted about Pansy a good deal, but he did as 
he was advised, and waited for another^Thursday evening before 
returning to the Palazzo Eoccanera. There had been a party at 
dinner, so that although he went early the company was already 
tolerably numerous. Osmond, as usual, was in the first room, 
near the fire, staring straight at the door, so that, not to be 
distinctly uncivil, Eosier had to go and speak to him. 

" I am glad that you can take a hint," Pansy's father said^ 
slightly closing his keen, conscious eye. 

^^ I take no hints. But I took a message, as I supposed it 
to be." 

« You took it 1 Where did you take it 1 " 
[ It seemed to poor Eosier that he was being insulted, and he 
waited a moment, asking himseK how much a true lover ought 
to submit to. 

" Madame Merle gave me, as I understood it, a message from 
you — to the eflfect that you declined to give me the opportunity 
I desire — the opportunity to explain my wishes to you." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 226 

Hosier flattered himself that he spoke rather sternly. 

" I don't see what Madame Merle has to do with it. Why 
did you apply to Madame Merle 1 " 

"I asked her for an opinion — for nothing more. I did so 
because she had seemed to me to know you very well" 

" She doesn't know me so well as she thinks," said Osmond. 

*' I am sorry for that, because she has given me some little 
ground for hope." 

Osmond stared into the Are for a moment. 

*' I set a great price on my daughter." 

" You can't set a higher one than I do. Don't I prove it by 
wiahing to marry her 1" 

" I wish to marry her very well," Osmond went on, with a 
dry impertinence which, in another mood, poor Rosier would 
have admired. 

" Of course I pretend that she would marry well in marrying 
me. She couldn't marry a man who loves her more ; or whom, 
I may venture to add, she loves more." 

" I am not bound to accept your theories as to whom my 
daughter loves," Osmond said, looking up with a quick, cold 
smile. 

" I am not theorising. Your daughter has spoken." 

"Not to me," Osmond continued, bending forward a little 
and dropping his eyes to his boot-toes. 

^ I have her promise, sir ! " cried Rosier, with the'sharpness of 
exasperation. 

As their voices had been pitched very low before, such a note 

attracted some attention from the company. Osmond waited 

till this little movement had subsided, then he said very 

quickly — 

" I think she has no recollection of having given it." 
VOL. n. q 



226 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

They had been standing with their faces to the fire, and after 
he had uttered these last words Osmond turned round again to 
the room. Before Eosier had time to rejoin he perceived that a 
gentleman — a stranger — ^had just come in, unannounced, accord- 
ing to the Eoman custom, and was about to present himself to 
the master of the house. The latter smiled blandly, but some- 
what blankly; the visitor was a handsome man, with a large, 
fair beard — evidently an Englishman. 

"You apparently don't recognise me," he said, with a smile 
that expressed more than Osmond's. 

" Ah yes, now I do ; I expected so little to see you." 
Eosier departed, and went in direct pursuit of Pansy. He 
sought her, as usual, in the neighbouring room, but lie again 
encountered Mrs. Osmond in his path. He gave this gracious 
lady no greeting — he was too righteously indignant ; but said to 
her crudely — 

"Your husband is awfully cold-blooded." 
She gave the same mystical smile that he had noticed 
before. 

" You can't expect every one to be as hot as yourself." 
** I don't pretend to be cold, but I am cooL What has he 
been doing to his daughter 1 " 
" I have no idea." 

"Don't you take any interest?" Eosier demanded, feeling 
that she too was irritating. 

For a moment she answered nothing. Then^— 
" No ! " she said abruptly, and with a quickened light in her 
eye which directly contradicted the word. 

"Excuse me if I don't believe that Where is Miss Osmond 1" 
" In the comer, making tea. Please leave her there." 
Eosier instantly discovered the young girl, who had been 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 227 

Mdden by intervening groups. He watched her, but her own 
attention was entirely given to her occupation. 

" What on earth has he done to her 1 " he asked again implor- 
ingly. "He declares to me that she has given me up." 

"She has not given you up," Isabel said, in a low tone, 
without looking at him. 

" Ah, thank you for that ! Now I will leave her alone as 
long as you think proper ! " 

He had hardly spoken when he saw her change colour, and 
became aware that Osmond was coming towards her, accompanied 
by the gentleman who had just entered. He thought the latter, 
in spite of the advantage of good looks and evident social ex- 
perience, was a little embarrassed. 

" Isabel," said Osmond, " I bring you an old friend." 

Mrs. Osmond's face, though it wore a smile, was, like her 
old friend's, not perfectly confident. " I am very happy to see 
Lord Warburton," she said. Eosier turned away, and now that 
his talk *with her had been interrupted, felt absolved from the 
little pledge he had just taken. He had a quick impression 
that Mrs. Osmond would not notice what he did. 

To do him justice, Isabel for some time quite ceased to observe 
him. She had been startled; she hardly knew whether she 
were glad or not. Lord Warburton, however, now that he was 
fece to face with her, was plainly very well pleased ; his frank 
grey eye expressed a deep, if still somewhat shy, satisfaction. 
He was larger, stouter than of yore, and he looked older; he 
stood there very solidly and sensibly. 

" I suppose you didn't expect to see me," he said ; " I have 

only just arrived. Literally, I only got here this evening. You 

see I have lost no time in coming to pay you my respects ; I 

knew you were at home on Thursdays." 

Q 2 



228 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" You see the fame of your Thursdays has spread to England," 
Osmond remarked, smiling, to his wife. 

" It is very kind of Lord Warburton to come so soon ; we are 
greatly flattered," Isabel said. 

" Ah well, it's better than stopping in one of those horrible 
inns," Osmond went on. 

" The hotel seems very good ; I think it is the same one where 
I saw you four years ago. You know it was here in Eome that 
we last met ; it is a long time ago. Do you remember where I 
bade you good-bye 1 It was in the Capitol, in the first room." 

"I remember that myself," said Osmond; "I was there at 
the time." 

" Yes, I remember that you were there. I was very sorry to 
leave Kome — so sorry that, somehow or other, it became a 
melancholy sort of memory, and I have never cared to come 
back till to-day. But I knew you were living here, and I assure 
you I have often thought of you. It must be a charming place 
to live in," said Lord Warburton, brightly, looking about hiio. 

" We should have been glad to see you at any time," Osmond 
remarked with propriety. 

"Thank you very mucL I haven't been out of England 
since then. Till a month ago, I really supposed my travels 
were over." 

"I have heard of you from time to time," said Isabel, who 
had now completely recovered her self-possession. 

" I hope you have heard no harm. My life has been a blank." 

*' Like the good reigns in history," Osmond suggested. He 
appeared to think his duties as a host had now terminated, he 
had performed them very conscientiously. Nothing could have, 
been more adequate, more nicely measured, than his courtesy to 
his wife's old friend. It was punctilious, it was explicit, it was 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 229 

everything but natural — a deficiency which Lord Warburton, 
who, himself, had on the whole a good deal of nature, may be 
supposed to have perceived. ** I will leave you and Mrs. Osmond 
together," he added. " You have reminiscences into which I 
don't enter." 

" I am afraid you lose a good deal ! " said Lord Warburton, 
in a tone which perhaps betrayed over-much Ms appreciation of 
Osmond's generosity. He stood a moment, looking at Isabel 
with an eye that gradually became more serious. ** I am really 
very glad to see you." 

" It is very pleasant. You are very kind." 

" Do you know that you are changed — a little 1 " 

Isabel hesitated a moment. 

" Yes — a good deal." 

" I don't mean for the worse, of course ; and yet how can I 
say for the better] " 

" I think I shall have no scruple in saying that to you," said 
Isabel, smiling. 

" Ah well, for me — ^it's a long time. It would be a pity that 
there shouldn't be something to show for it." 

They sat down, and Isabel asked him about his sisters, with 
other inquiries of a somewhat perfunctory kind. He answered 
her questions as if they interested him, and in a few moments 
she saw — or believed she saw — that he would prove a more 
comfortable companion than of yore. Time had breathed upon 
his heart, and without chilling this organ, had freely ventilated 
it. Isabel felt her usual esteem for Time rise at a bound. Lord 
Warburton's manner was certainly that of a contented man who 
would rather like one to know it. 

" There is something I must tell you without more delay," he 
said. " I have brought Ealph Touchett with me." 



230 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" Brouglit him with you 1 " IsabeFs surprise was great. 

" He is at. the hotel ; he was too tired to come out, and has 
gone to bed." 

" I will go and see him," said Isabel, quickly. 

" That is exactly what I hoped you would do. I had an idea 
that you hadn't seen much of him since your marriage — that in 
fact your relations were a — a little more f ormaL That's why I 
hesitated — like an awkward Englishman." 

" I am as fond of Ealph as ever," Isabel answered. " But why 
has he come to Eome 1 " 

The declaration was very gentle ; the question a little sharp. 

" Because he is very far gone, Mrs. Osmond." 

" Rome, then, is no place for him- I heard from him that he 
had determined to give up his custom of wintering abroad, and 
remain in England, indoors, in what he called an artificial 
climate." 

" Poor fellow, he doesn't succeed with the artificial ! I went 
to see him three weeks ago, at Gardencourt, and found him 
extremely ilL He has been getting worse every year, and now 
he has no strength left. He smokes no more cigarettes ! He 
had got up an artificial climate indeed; the house was as hot as 
Calcutta. Nevertheless, he had suddenly taken it into his head 
to start for Sicily. I didn't believe in it — neither did the 
doctors, nor any of his friends. His mother, as I suppose you 
know, is in America, so there was no one to prevent him. He 
stuck to his idea that it would be the saving of him to spend the 
winter at Catania. He said he could take servants and furni- 
ture, and make himself comfortable ; but in point of fact he 
hasn't brought anything. I wanted him at least to go by sea, to 
save fatigue ; but he said he hated the sea, and wished to stop 
at Eome. After that, though I thought it all rubbish, I made 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 231 

up my mind to come with him. I am acting as — what do you 
call it in America ] — as a kind of moderator. Poor Touchett's 
very moderate now. We left England a fortnight ago, and he 
has been very bad on the way. He can't keep warm, and the 
farther south we come the more he feels the cold. He has got 
a rather good man, but I'm afraid he's beyond human help. If 
you don't mind my saying so, I think it was a most extraordinary 
time for Mrs. Touchett to choose for going to America." 

Isabel had listened eagerly ; her face was full of pain and 
wonder. 

''My aunt does that at fixed periods, 'and she lets nothing 
turn her aside. When the date comes round she starts ; I think 
she would have started if Ralph had been dying." 

" I sometimes think he is dying," Lord Warburton said. 

Isabel started up. 

" I will go to him now ! " 

He checked her; he was a little disconcerted at the quick 
effect of his words. 

" I don't mean that I thought so to-night. On the contrary, 
to-day, in the train, he seemed particularly well; the idea of our 
reaching Rome — ^he is very fond of Rome, you know — gave him 
strength. An hour ago, when I bade him good night, he told 
me that he was very tired, but very happy. Go to him in the 
morning ; that's all I mean. I didn't tell him I was coming 
here; I didn't think of it till after we separated. Then I 
remembered that he had told me that you had an evening, and 
that it was this very Thursday. It occurred to me to come in 
and tell you that he was here, and let you know that you had 
perhaps better not wait for him to calL I think he said he had 
not written to ypu." There was no need of Isabel's declaring 
that she would act upon Lord Warburton's information; she 



232 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

looked, as she sat there, like a winged creature held back. 
" Let alone that I wanted to see you for myself," her visitor 
added, gallantly. 

" I don't understand Ealph's plan ; it seems to me very wild," 
she said. " I was glad to think of him between those thick 
walls at Gardencourt." 

" He was completely alone there ; the thick walls were his 
only company." 

" You went to see him ; you have been extremely kind." 

" Oh dear, I had nothing to do," said Lord Warburton. 

" We hear, on the contrary, that you are doing great things. 
Every one speaks of you as a great statesman, and I am per- 
petually seeing your name in the Times, which, by the way, 
doesn't appear to hold it in reverence. You are apparently as 
bold a radical as ever." 

" I don't feel nearly so bold ; you know the world has come 
round to me. Touchett and I have kept up a sort of Parliament- 
ary debate, all the way from London. I tell him he is the last 
of the Tories, and he calls me the head of the Communists. So 
you see there is life in him yet." 

Isabel had many questions to ask about Ealph, but she 
abstained from asking them aU. She would see for herself on 
the morrow. She perceived that after a little Lord Warburton 
would tire of that subject — that he had a consciousness of other 
possible topics. She was more and more able to say to herself 
that he had recovered, and, what is more to the point, she was 
able to say it without bitterness. He had been for her, of old, 
such an image of urgency, of insistence, of something to be 
resisted and reasoned with, that his reappearance at first 
menaced her with a new trouble. But she was now reassured ; 
she could see that he only wished to live with her on good terms, 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 233 

that she was to understand that he had forgiven her and was 
incapable of the bad taste of making pointed allusions. This 
was not a form of revenge, of course ; she had no suspicion that 
he wished to punish her by an exhibition of disillusionment ; 
she did him the justice to believe that it had simply occurred to 
him that she would now take a good-natured interest in knowing 
that he was resigned. It was the resignation of a healthy, 
manly nature, in which sentimental wounds could never fester. 
British poUtics had cured him; she had known they would. 
She gave an envious thought to the happier lot of men, who are 
always free to plunge into the healing waters of action. Lord 
Warburton of course spoke of the past, but he spoke of it with- 
out implication ; he even went so far as to allude to their former 
meeting in Eome as a very jolly time. And he told her that 
he had been immensely interested in hearing of her marriage — 
that it was a great pleasure to him to make Mr. Osmond's ac- 
quaintance — since he could hardly be said to have made it on the 
other occasion. He had not written to her when she married, 
but he did not apologise to her for that. The only thing he 
implied was that they were old friends, intimate friends. It was 
very much as an intimate friend that he said to her, suddenly, 
after a short pause which he had occupied in smiling, a& he 
looked about him, like a man to whom everything suggested a 
cheerful interpretation — 

" Well now, I suppose you are very happy, and all that sort 
of thing 1 " 

Isabel answered with a quick laugh ; the tone of his remark 
struck her almost as the accent of comedy. 

" Do you suppose if I were not I would tell you 1 " 

" Well, I don't know. I don't see why not." 

" I do, then. Fortunately, however, I am very happy." 



234 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

" You have got a very good house." 

" Yes, it's very pleasant. But that's not my merit — ^it's my 
husband's." 

" You mean that he has arranged iti ** 

" Yes, it was nothing when we came." 

" He must be very clever." 

" He has a genius for upholstery," said IsabeL 

" There is a great rage for that sort of thing now. But you 
must have a taste of your own." 

" I enjoy things when they are done ; but I have no ideas. I 
can never propose anything." 

" Do you mean that you accept what others propose 1 " 

'* Very willingly, for the most part." 

" That's a good thing to know. I shall propose you some- 
thing." 

" It will be very kind. I must say, however, that I have in 
a few small ways a certain initiative. I should like, for instance, 
to introduce you to some of these people." 

" Oh, please don't ; I like sitting here. Unless it be to that 
young lady in the blue dress. She has a charming face." 

" The one talking to the rosy young man 1 That's my hus- 
band's daughter." 

" Lucky man, your husband. What a dear little maid ! " 

" You must make her acquaintance." 

" In a moment, with pleasure. I like looking at her fiwm 
here." He ceased to look at her, however, very soon ; his eyes 
constantly reverted to Mrs. Osmond. " Do you know I was 
wrong just now in saying that you had changed 1 " he presently 
went on. " You seem to me, after all, very much the same." 

" And yet I find it's a great change to be married," said Isabel, 
with gaiety. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A lADY. 235 

" It affects most people more than it has affected you. You 
see I haven't gone in for that" 

" It rather surprises me." 

'* You ought to understand it, Mrs. Osmond. But I want to 
marry," he added, more simply. 

"It ought to be very easy," Isabel said, rising, and then 
blushing a little at the thought that she was hardly the person 
to say this. It was perhaps because Lord Warburton noticed 
her blush that he generously forbore to call her attention to the 
incongruity. 

Edward Hosier meanwhile had seated himself on an ottoman 
beside Pansy's tea-table. He pretended at first to talk to her 
about trifles, and she asked him who was the new gentleman 
conversing with her stepmother. 

" He's an English lord," said Eosier. " I don't know more." 

" I wonder if he will have some tea. The English are so fond 
of tea." 

''ISTever mind that; I have something particular to say to 
you." 

"Don't speak so loud, or every one will hear us," said 
Pansy. 

" They won't hear us if you continue to look that way : as if 
your only thought in life was the wish that the kettle would 
boiL" 

" It has just been filled ; the servants never know ! " the 
young girl exclaimed, with a little sigh. 

" Do you know what your father said to me just nowl That 
you didn't mean what you said a week ago." 

"I don't mean everything I say. How can a young girl do 
that 1 But I mean what I say to you." 

" He told me that you had forgotten me." 




236 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

'^ Ah no, I don't forget," said Pansy, showing her pretty teeth 
in a fixed smile. 

" Then everything is just the same I " 

'^ Ah no, it's not just the same. Papa has been very severe. " 

" What has he done to you 1 " 

^' He asked me what you had done to me, and I told him 
everything. Then he forbade me to marry you." 

" You needn't mind that." 

" Oh yes, I must indeed. I can't disobey papa." 

" Not for one who loves you as I do, and whom you pretend 
to love 1 " 

Pansy raised the lid of the tea-pot, gazing into this vessel for 
a moment ; then she dropped six words into its aromatic depths. 
" I love you just as much." 

" What good will that do me 1 " 

" Ah," said Pansy, raising her sweet, vague eyes, " I don't 
know that." 

" You disappoint me," groaned poor Hosier. 

Pansy was silent a moment ; she handed a tearcup to a 
servant. 

" Please don't talk any more." 

'' Is this to be all my satisfeu^tion 1 " 

" Papa said I was not to talk with you." 

'' Do you sacrifice me like that ) Ah, it's too much ! " 

" I wish you would wait, a little," said the young girl, in a 
voice just distinct enough to betray a quaver. 

'* Of course I will wait if you will give me hope. But you 
take my life away." 

" I will not give you up — oh, no ! " Pansy went on. 

" He will try and make you marry some one else." 

" I will never do that." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 237 

"What then are we to wait fori" 

She hesitated a moment. 

" I will speak to Mrs. Osmond, and she will help us." It 
was in this manner that she for the most part designated her 
stepmother. 

" She won't help us much. She is afraid." 

"Afraid of what 1" 

" Of your father, I suppose." 

Pansy shook her little head. 

" She is not afraid of any one ! We must have patience." 

" Ah, that's an awful word," Kosier groaned ; he was deeply 
disconcerted. Oblivious of the customs of good society, he 
dropped his head into his hands, and, supporting it with a 
melancholy grace, sat staring at the carpet. Presently he became 
aware of a good deal of movement about him, and when he 
looked up saw Pansy making a curtsey — it was still her little 
curtsey of the convent — to the English lord whom Mrs. Osmond 
had presented. 



238 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



XX. 

It probably will not be surprising to the reflective reader that 
Ralph Touchett should have seen less of his cousin since her 
marriage than he had done before that event — an event of which 
he took such a view as could hardly prove a conflrmation of 
intimacy. He had uttered his thought, as we know, and after 
this he had held his peace, Isabel not having invited him to 
resume a discussion which marked an era in their relations. 
That discussion had made a difference — ^the difference that he 
feared, rather than the one he hoped. It had not chilled the 
girFs zeal in carrying out her engagement, but it had come 
dangerously near to spoiling a friendship. 'No reference was 
ever again made between them to Ralph's opinion of Gilbert 
Osmond ; and by surrounding this topic with a sacred silence, 
they managed to preserve a semblance of reciprocal frankness. 
But there was a difference, as Ralph often said to himself — there 
was a difference. She had not forgiven him^ she never would 
forgive him ; that was all he had gained. She thought she had 
forgiven him ; she believed she didn't care ; and as she was 
both very generous and very proud, these convictions represented 
a certain reality. But whether or no the event should justify 
him, he would virtually have done her a wrong, and the wrong 
was of the sort that women remember best. As Osmond's wife, 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 239 

9he could never again be his friend. If in this character she 
should enjoy the felicity she expected, she would have nothing 
but contempt for the man who had attempted, in advance, to 
undermine a blessing so dear; and if on the other hand his 
warning should be justified, the vow she had taken that he 
should never know it, would lay upon her spirit a burden that 
would make her hate him. Such had been, during the year that 
followed his cousin's marriage, Ralph's rather dismal prevision 
of the fature; and if his meditations appear morbid we must 
remember that he was not in the bloom of health. He consoled 
himself as he might by behaving (as he deemed) beautifully, and 
was present at the ceremony by which Isabel was united to Mr. 
Osmond, and which was performed in Florence in the month of 
June. He learned from his mother that Isabel at first had 
thoughts of celebrating her nuptials in her native land, but that 
as simplicity was what she chiefly desired to secure, she had 
finally decided, in spite of Osmond's professed willingness to 
make a journey of any length, that this characteristic would 
best be preserved by their being married by the nearest clergy- 
man in the shortest time. The thing was done, therefore, at 
the little American chapel, on a very hot day, in the presence 
only of Mrs. Touchett and her son, of Pansy Osmond and the 
Countess Gemini. That severity in the proceedings of which I 
just spoke, was in part the result of the absence of two persons 
who might have been looked for on the occasion, and who would 
have lent it a certain richness. Madame Merle had been invited, 
but Madame Merle, who was unable to leave Eome, sent a 
gracious letter of excuses. Henrietta Stackpole had not been 
invited, as her departure from America, announced to Isabel by 
Mr. Goodwood, was in fact frustrated by the duties of her pro- 
fession ; but she had sent a letter^ less gracious than Madame 



240 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

Merle's, intimating that had she been able to cross the Atlantic, 
she would have been present not only as a witness bnt as a 
critic. Her return to Europe took place somewhat later, and 
she effected a meeting with Isabel in the autumn, in Paris, when 
she indulged — perhaps a trifle too freely — ^her critical genius. 
Poor Osmond, who was chiefly the subject of it, protested so 
sharply that Henrietta was obliged to declare to Isabel that she 
had taken a step which erected a barrier between them. '* It 
isn't in the least that you have married — ^it is that you have 
married ^zm," she deemed it her duty to remark ; agreeing, it 
will be seen, much more with Ralph Touchett than she suspected, 
though she had few of his hesitations and compunctions. Hen- 
rietta's second visit to Europe, however, was not made in vain ; 
for just at the moment when Osmond had declared to Isabel 
that he really must object to that newspaper-woman, and Isabel 
had answered that it seemed to her he took Henrietta too hard, 
the good Mr. Bantling appeared upon the scene and proposed 
that they should take a run down to Spain. Henrietta's letters 
from Spain proved to be the most picturesque she had yet pub- 
lished, and there was one in especial, dated from the Alhambra, 
and entitled 'Moors and Moonlight,' which generally passed 
for her masterpiece. Isabel was secretly disappointed at her 
husband's not having been able to judge the poor girl more 
humorously. She even wondered whether his sense of humour 
were by chance defective. Of course she herself looked at the 
matter as a person whose present happiness had nothing to 
grudge to Henrietta's violated conscience. Osmond thought 
their alliance a kind of monstrosity ; he couldn't imagine what 
they had in common. For him, Mr. Bantling's fellow-tourist 
was simply the most vulgar of women, and he also pronounced 
her the most abandoned. Against this latter clause of the 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 241 

verdict Isabel protested with an ardour which made him wonder 

afresh at the oddity of some of his wife's tastes. Isabel could 

explain it only by saying that she liked to know people who 

were as different as possible from herself. " Why then don't 

you make the acquaintance of your washerwoman?" Osmond 

had inquired ; to which Isabel answered that she was afraid her 

washerwoman wouldn't care for her. Now Henrietta cared so 

much. 

Ralph saw nothing of her for the greater part of the two years 

that followed her marriage ; the winter that formed the beginning 

of her residence in Eome he spent again at San Eemo, where he 

was joined in the spring by his mother, who afterwards went 

with him to England, to see what they were doing at the bank 

—an operation she could not induce him to perform. Ealph 

had taken a lease of his house at San Remo, a small villa, which 

he occupied still another winter ; but late in the month of Api^il 

of this second year he came down to Rome. It was the first 

time since her marriage that he had stood face to face with 

Isabel ; his desire to see her again was of the keenest. She had 

written to him from time to time, but her letters told him nothing 

that he wanted to know. He had asked his mother what she 

was making of her life, and his mother had simply answered 

that she supposed she was making the best of it. Mrs. Touchett 

had not the imagination that communes with the unseen, and 

ghe now pretended to no intimacy with her niece, whom she 

rarely encountered. This young woman appeared to be living 

in a sufficiently honourable way, but Mi-s. Touchett still remained 

of the opinion that her marriage was a shalby affair. It gave 

her no pleasure to think of Isabel's establishment, which she 

was sure was a very lame business. From time to time, in 

Florence, she rubbed against the Countess Gemini, doing her 
VOL. n. R 



242 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

best, always, to minimise the contact; and the Countess reminded 
her of Osmond, who made her think of IsabeL The Countess 
was less talked about in these days ; but Mis. Touchett augured 
no good of that ; it only proved how she had been talked about 
before. There was a more direct suggestion of Isabel in the 
person of Madame Merle ; but Madame Merle's relations with 
Mrs. Touchett had undergone a perceptible change. Isabel's aunt 
had told her, without circumlocution, that she had played too 
ingenious a part; and Madame Merle, who never quarrelled 
with any one, who appeared to think no one worth it, and who 
had performed the miracle of living, more or less, for several 
years with Mrs. Touchett, without a symptom of irritation — 
Madame Merle now took a very high tone, and declared that 
this was an accusation from which she could not stoop to defend 
herself. She added, however (without stooping), that her 
behaviour had been only too simple, that she had believed only 
what she saw, that she saw that Isabel was not eager to many, 
and that Osmond was not eager to please (his repeated visits 
were nothing ; he was boring himself to death on his hill-top, 
and he came merely for amusement). Isabel had kept her 
sentiments to herself, and her journey to Greece and Egypt 
had effectually thrown dust in her companion's eyes. Madame 
Merle accepted the event — she was unprepared to think of it as 
a scandal ; but that she had played any part in it, double or 
single, was an imputation against which she proudly protested. 
It was doubtless in consequence of Mrs. Touchett's attitude 
and of the injury it offered to habits consecrated by many 
charming seasons, that Madame Merle, after this, chose to 
pass many, months in England, where her credit was quite 
unimpaired. Mrs. Touchett had done her a wrong ; there are 
some things that can't be forgiven. But Madame Merle suf- 




THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 243 

fered in silence ; there was always something exquisite in her 
dignity. 

Ealph, as I say, had wished to see for himself ; hut while he 
was engaged in this pursuit he felt afresh what a fool he had 
been to put the girl on her guard. He had played the wrong 
card, and now he had lost the game. He should see nothing, he 
should learn nothing ; for him she would always wear a mask. 
His true line would have been to profess delight in her marriage, 
so that later, when, as Ealph phrased it, the bottom should fall 
out of • it, she might have the pleasure of saying to him that he 
had been a goose. He would gladly have consented to pass for 
a goose in order to know Isabers real situation. But now she 
neither taunted him with his fallacies nor pretended that her 
own confidence was justified ; if she wore a mask, it completely 
covered her face. There was something fixed and mechanical in 
the serenity painted upon it; this was not an expression, Ealph 
paid — it was a representation. She had lost her child ; that was 
a sorrow, but it was a sorrow she ' scarcely spoke of ; there was 
more to say about it than she could say to Ealph. It belonged 
to the past) moreover ; it had occurred six months before, and 
she had already laid aside the tokens of mourning. She seemed 
to be leading a life of the world; Ealph heard her spoken 
of as having a "charming position." He observed that she 
produced the impression of being peculiarly enviable, that it was 
supposed, among many people, to be a privilege even to know 
her. Her house was not open to every one, and she had an 
evening in the week, to which people were not invited as a 
matter of course. She lived with a certain magnificence, but 
you needed to be a member of her circle to perceive it ; for there 
was nothing to gape at, nothing to criticise, nothing even to 
admire, in the daily proceedings of Mr. and Mrs. Osmond • 

R 2 



244 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



Ealph, in all this, recognised the hand of the master ; for he 
knew that Isabel had no faculty for producing calculated impress 
sions. . She struck him as having a great love of movement, of 
gaiety, of late hours, of long drives, of fatigue ; an eagerness 
to be entertained, to be interested, even to be bored, to make 
acquaintances, to see people that were talked about, to explore 
the neighbourhood of Kome, to enter into relation with certain 
of the mustiest relics of its old society. In all this there was 
much less discrimination than in that desire for comprehen- 
siveness of development on which he used to exercise his wit. 
There was a kind of violence in some of her impulses, of crudity 
in some of her experiments, which took him by surprise; it 
seemed to him that she even spoke faster, moved faster, than 
before her marriage. Certainly she had fallen into exaggerations 
— she who used to care so much for the pure truth; and whereas 
of old she had a great delight in good-humoured argument, in 
intellectual play (she never looked so charming as when in the 
genial heat of discussion she received a crushing blow full in the 
face and brushed it away as a feather), she appeared now to 
think there was nothing worth people's either differing about or 
agreeing upon. Of old she had been curious, and now she was 
indifferent, and yet in spite of her indifference her activity was 
greater than ever. Slender still, but lovelier than before, she 
had gained no great maturity of aspect ; but there was a kind of 
amplitude and brilliancy in her personal arrangements which 
gave a touch of insolence to her beauty. Poor human-hearted 
Isabel, what perversity had bitten her ? Her light step drew a 
mass of drapery behind it; her intelligent head sustained a 
majesty of ornament. The free, keen girl had become quite 
another person ; what he saw was the fine lady who was supposed 
to represent something. " What did Isabel represent ? " Ealph 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 24 5 

asked himself ; and he could answer only by saying that she 
represented Gilbert Osmond. " Good heavens, what a function ! ' » 
he exclaimed. He was lost in wonder at the mystery of things. 
He recognised Osmond, as I say ; he recognised him at every 
turn. He saw how he kept all things within limits ; how he 
adjusted, regulated, animated their manner of life. Osmond 
was in his element ; at last he had material to work with. He 
always had an eye to effect; and his effects were elaborately 
studied. They were produced by no vulgar means, but the 
motive was as vulgar as the art was great. To surround his 
interior with a sort of invidious sanctity, to tantalise society 
with a sense of exclusion, to make people believe his house was 
different from every other, to impart to the face that he presented 
to the world a cold originality — this was the ingenious effort qi 
the personage to whom Isabel had attributed a superior morality. 
" He works with superior material," Ealph said to himself ; 
" but it's rich abundance compared with his former resources." 
Ealph was a clever man; but Ralph had never — to his own 
sense — been so clever as when he observed, in petfo, that under 
the guise of caring only for intrinsic values, Osmond lived 
exclusively for the world. . Far from being its master, as he 
pretended to be, he was its Yeiy humble servant, and the degree 
of its attention was his only measure of success. He lived with 
his eye on it, from morning till night, and the world was so 
stupid it never suspected the trick. Everything he did was pose 
— pose so deeply calculated that if one were not on the look- 
out one mistook it for impulse. Ralph had never met a man 
who lived so much in the land of calculation. His tastes, 
his studies, his accomplishments, his collections, were all for a 
purpose. His life on his hill-top at Florence had been a pose of 
years. His solitude, his ennui, his love for his daughter, his 



246 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

good manners, his bad manners, were so many features of a 
mental image constantly present to him as a model of imperti- 
nence and mystification. His ambition was not to please the 
world, but to please himself by exciting the world's curiosity 
and then declining to satisfy it. It made him feel great to play 
the world a trick. The thing he had done in his life most 
directly to please himself was his marrying Isabel Archer; 
though in this case indeed the gullible world was in a manner 
embodied in poor Isabel, who had been mystified to the top of 
her bent. Ealph of course found a fitness in being consistent; 
he had embraced a creed, and as he had suffered for it he could 
not in honour forsake it. I give this little sketch of its articles 
for what they are worth. It was certain that he was very 
skilful in fitting the facts to his theory — even the fact that 
during the month he spent in Rome at this period Gilbert 
Osmond appeared to regard him not in the least as an enemy* 
For Mr. Osmond Ralph had not now that importance. It was 
not that he had the importance of a friend ; it was rather that 
he had none at all. He was Isabel's cousin, and he was rathet 
unpleasantly ill — it was on this basis that Osmond treated with 
him. He made the proper inquiries, asked about his health, 
about Mrs. Touchett, about his opinion of winter climates, 
whether he was comfortable at his hotel He addressed him, on 
the few occasions of their meeting, not a word that was not 
necessary ; but his manner had always the urbanity proper to 
conscious success in the presence of conscious failure. For all 
this, Ralph had, towards the end, an inward conviction that 
Osmond had made it uncomfortable for his wife that she should 
continue to receive her cousin. He was not jealous — he had not 
that excuse ; no one could be jealous of Ralph. But he made 
Isabel pay for her old-time kindness, of which so much was still 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. ^47 

left ; and as Ralph had no idea of her paying too much, when 
his suspicion had hecome sharp, he took himself off. In doing 
so he deprived Isahel of a very interesting occupation : she had 
heen constantly wondering what fine principle kept him alive. 
She decided that it was his love of conversation ; his convers- 
ation was hetter than ever. He had given up walking ; he was 
no longer a humorous stroller. He sat all day in a chair — 
almost any chair would do, and was so dependent on what you 
would do for him that, had not his talk heen highly contempla- 
tive, you might have thought he was blind. The reader already 
knows more about him than Isabel was ever to know, and the 
reader may therefore be given the key to the mystery. What 
kept Ralph alive was simply the fact that he had not yet seen 
enough of his cousin ; he was not yet satisfied. There was more 
to come ; he couldn*t make up his mind to lose that. He wished 
to see what she would make of her husband — or what he would 
make of her. This was only the first act of the drama, and he 
was determined to sit out the performance. His determination 
held good ) it kept him going some eighteen months more, till 
the time of his return to Rome with Lord Warburton. It gave 
him indeed such an air of intending to live indefinitely that Mrs. 
Touchett, though more accessible to confusions of thought in the 
matter of this strange, unremunerative — and unremunerated — 
son of hers than she had ever been before, had, as we have 
learned, not scrupled to embark for a distant land. If Ralph 
had been kept alive by suspense, it was with a good deal of the 
same emotion — the excitement of wondering in what state she 
should find him— that Isabel ascended to his apartment the day 
after Lord Warburton had notified her of his arrival in Rome. 

She spent an hour with him ; it was the first of several visits. 
Gilbert Osmond called on him punctually, and on Isabel sending 



248 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 

a carriage for him Ealph came more than once to the Palazzo 
Eoccanera. A fortnight elapsed, at the end of which Ealph 
announced to Lord Warburton that he thought after all he 
wouldn't go to Sicily. The two men had been dining together 
after a day spent by the latter in ranging about the Campagna. 
Tliey had left the table, and Warburton, before the chimney, 
was lighting a cigar, which he instantly removed from his 
lips. 

" Won't go to Sicily ? Where then will you go 1 " 

" Well, I guess I won't go anywhere," said Kalph, from the 
sofa, in a tone of jocosity. 

" Do you mean that you wiU return to England 1 " 

'* Oh dear no ; I will stay in Rome." 

** Eome won't do for you ; it's not warm enough." 

" It will have to do ; I will make it do. See how well I have 
been." 

Lord Warburton looked at him a while, pufi&ng his cigar, as 
if he were trying to see it. 

" You have been better than you were on the journey, 
certainly. I wonder how you lived through that. But I 
don't understand your condition. I recommend you to try 
SicHy." 

" I can't try," said poor Ealph ; " I can't move further. I 
can't face that journey. Fancy me between Scylla and Charyb- 
dis ! I. don't want to die on the Sicilian plains — to be snatched 
away, like Proserpine in the same locality, to the Plutonian 
shades." 

"What the deuce then did you come fori" his lordship 
inquired. 

" Because the idea took me. I see it won't do. It really 
doesn't matter where I am now. I've exhausted all remedies. 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 249 

IVe swallowed all climates. As I^m here 1^11 stay ; I haven't 
got any cousins in Sicily." 

"Your cousin is certainly an inducement. But what does 
the doctor sav 1 " 

" I haven't asked him, and I don't care a fig. If I die here 
Mrs. Osmond will bury me. But I shall not die here." 

** I hope not." Lord Warburton continued to smoke reflect- 
ively. " Well, I must say," he resumed, " for myself I am very 
glad you don't go to Sicily. I had a horror of that journey." 

" Ah, but for you it needn't have mattered. I had no idea of 
dragging you in my train." 

" I certainly didn't mean to let you go alone." 

" My dear Warburton, I never expected you to come further 
than this," Ealph cried. 

" I should have gone with you and seen you settled," said 
Lord Warburton. 

" You are a very good fellow. You are very kind." 

" Then I should have come back here." 

" And then you would have gone to England." 

" No, no ; I should have stayed." 

" Well," said Ralph, ** if that's what we are both up to, I 
don't see where Sicily comes in I " 

His companion was silent; he sat staring at the fire. At 
last, looking up — 

" I say, tell me this," he broke out ; " did . you really mean to 
go to Sicily when we started 1 " 

" Ah, vouB Tfien demandez trop I Let me put a question first. 
Did you come with me quite — platonically 1 " 

" I don't know what you mean by that. I wanted to come 
abroad." 

" I suspect we have each been playing our little game." 



250 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.. 

" Speak for yourself. I made no secret whatever of my 
wanting to be here a while." 

" Yes, I remember you said you wished to see the Minister of 
Foreign Affairs." 

" I have seen him three times ; he is very amusing." 

"I think you have forgotten what you came for," said 
Ealph. 

** Perhaps I have," his companion answered, rather gravely. 

These two gentlemen were children of a race which is not 
distinguished by the absence of reserve, and they had travelled 
together from Loudon to Rome without an allusion to matters 
that were uppermost in the mind of each. There was an old 
subject that they had once discussed, but it had lost its recognised 
place in their attention, and even after their arrival in Eome, 
where many things led back to it, they had kept the same half- 
diffident, half-confident silence. 

" I recommend you to get the doctor's consent, all the same," 
Lord Warburton went on, abruptly, after an interval 

" The doctor's consent will spoil it ; I never have it when I 
can help it ! " 

"What does Mrs; Osmond think?" 

" I have not told her. She will probably say that Eome is 
too cold, and even offer to go with me to Catania. She is 
capable of that." 

" In your place I should like it." 

" Her husband won't like it." 

" Ah well, I can fancy that ; though it seems to me you are 
not bound to mind it. It's his affair." 

" I don't want to make any more trouble between them," said 
Ralph. 

" Is there so much already 1 " 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 261 

"There's complete preparation for it. Her going off with me 
would make the explosion. Osmond isn't fond of his wife's 
cousin." 

" Then of course he would make a row. But won't he make 
a row if you stop here 1 " 

" That's what I want to see. He made one the last time I 
was in Rome, and then I thought it my duty to go away. Now 
I think it's my duty to stop and defend her." 

" My dear Touchett, your defensive powers — " Lord War- 
hurton began, with a smile. But he saw something in his com- 
panion's face that checked him. " Your duty, in these premises, 
seems to me rather a nice question," he said. 

Ralph for a short time answered nothing. 

" It is true that my defensive powers are small," he remarked 
at last ; " but as my aggressive ones are still smaller, Osmond 
may, after all, not think me worth his gunpowder. At any 
rate," he added, " there are things I am curious to see." 

" You are sacrificing your health to your curiosity then ^ " 

" I am not much interested in my health, and I am deeply 
interested in Mrs. Osmond." 

" So am L But not as I once was," Lord Warburton added 
quickly. This was one of the allusions he had not hitherto 
found occasion to make. 

"Does she strike you as very happy 1" Ralph inquired, 
emboldened by this confidence. 

" Well, I don't know ; I have hardly thought She told me 
the other night that she was happy." 

" Ah, she told you, of course," Ralph exclaimed, smiling. 

" I don't know that. It seems to me I was rather the sort of 
person she might have complained to." 

" Complain 1 She will never complain. She has done it. 



252 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 



and she knows it. . She will complain to you least of all. She 

is very careful." 

" She needn't be. I don't mean to make love to her again." 
" I am delighted to hear it ; there can b« no doubt at least of 

y(mr duty." 

" Ah no," said Lord Warburton, gravely ; " none ! " 

" Permit me to ask," Kalph went on, " whether it is to bring 

out the fact that you don't mean to make love to her that you 

are so very civil to the little girl 1 " 

Lord Warburton gave a slight start; he got up and stood 

before the fire, blushing a little. 

" Does that strike you as very ridiculous 1 " 

" Ridiculous 1 Not in the least, if you really like her." 

" I think her a delightful little person. I don't know when 

a girl of that age has pleased me more." 

" She's a charming creature. Ah, she at least is genuine." 
"Of course there's the difference in our ages — more than 

twenty years." 

" My dear Warburton," said Ralph, " are you serious 1 " 

" Perfectly serious — as far as I've got" 

" I am very glad. And, heaven help us," cried Ralph, " how 

tickled Gilbert Osmond will be ! " 
His companion frowned. 
" I say, don't spoil it I shan't marry his daughter to please 

him." 

" He will have the perversity to be pleased all the same." 

" He's not so fond of me as that," said his lordship. 

"As thati My dear Warburton, the drawback of your 

position is that people needn't be fond of you at all to wish to 

be connected with you. Now, with me in such a case, I should 

have the happy confidence that they loved me." 



THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 253 

Lord Warburton seemed scarcely to be in the mood for doing 
justice to general axioms ; he was thinking of a special case. 

" Do you think she^ll be pleased ? " 

" The girl herself ? DeHghted, surely." 

" No, no ; I mean Mrs. Osmond." 

Ealph looked at him a moment. 

" My dear fellow, what has she to do with it 1 " 

" Whatever she chooses. She is very fond of the girl." 

" Very true — very true." And Ealph slowly got up. *' It's 
an interesting question — how far her fondness for the girl will 
carry her." He stood there a moment with his hands in his 
pockets, with a rather sombre eye. " I hope, you know, that' 
you are very — very sure — The deuce 1 " he broke off, " I don't 
know how to say it." 

" Yes, you do ; you know how to say everything." 

" Well, it's awkward. I hope you are sure that among Miss 
Osmond's merits her being a — so near her stepmother isn't a 
leading one ] " 

" Good heavens, Touchett ! " cried Lord Warburton, angrily, 
" for what do you take me ? " 



END OP VOL. II. 



CLAY AND TAVLOB, PRINTERS, 
BUKOAT, RUFFOLK. 



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